Chapter 53 - Aftermath
There was silence in the room.
There had not been silence in a meeting of leaderships for as long as Skullerbee could remember. Normally, he would break it and kick it off properly, but his feelings were not in the right place right then.
He looked around him with judging eyes, at the representatives of the cities. Pandeer’s face was a welcome sight, his age and wisdom well visible in his otherwise exhausted expression.
Layryn was her stunningly beautiful self, poised with a stern face, eyes sharpened by the sight of death and mayhem. She had grown much since he had last seen her, dealing with an invasion will do that to a ruler, and while she should have grown more aware of the dangers of the world, and thus more interested in foreign relations, her demeanor suggested otherwise.
And there was Spellgate. Spellgate was the same as ever, a faceless androgynous presence, hiding thoughts and intent behind a cocky and cunning smile.
“Gratitude, anyone?” Spellgate’s avatar raised an eyebrow, suggesting he’d be insulted if he didn’t receive thanks.
“I find it hard to find any reason to,” Layryn remarked, “we did not require the assistance. Do not expect any boon from us.”
“Is this the reward for our sacrifice? Disdain?”
Everyone in that room was painfully aware, now, that one of Katsuryu’s main hands had been a spy for Spellgate. They were all too aware this situation had been fomented by them for some particular purpose. They weren’t there for Layryn or Bellhall, but for Katsuryu, but no one could say anything because there was no proof of anything.
But while before, Layryn would have apologized and offered thanks, since, at the end of it all, they did teleport an army to assist her… she instead met the accusation with another one.
“Since when can you do mass teleportation?”
“SUBJECT AVOIDANCE!!!” The avatar yelled, suddenly, and in their case, it meant the whole city was in an uproar. Grammar usually got sketchy during these stages: “OFFENSIVE! INSULTED! WHO WE LOST LIVES MANY FOR YOU BELLHALL!! FEA CHILDREN OF TURDS!”
“Why is not Fairgrifen thanking Aellea?” Layryn immediately asked, unconcerned nor intimidated by Spellgate’s reaction.
Pandeem side-glanced at Skullerbee, who met his gaze, knowing full well what he was going to say. Everyone knew but it needed to be said.
“Two reasons…” he calmly said, in a tone of voice that indicated he meant no offense, “First, because Aellea’s forces were initially sent to quell my resistance. They assisted us only because I was quick enough to win back the city, but mostly, because I had a Lan acquaintance that interceded on behalf of my side. And secondly, contrary to the Jun’s assistance…Aellea’s forces simply showed up. That was that.”
“I take no grievance to this,” Skullerbee said, not managing to sound neither jolly nor honest. He was too disappointed with all of them.
How could the Fairgriffen aristocrats find themselves in that position in the first place? How could Spellgate play around with providing aid to a force that was stealing the stones? How could Bellhall not report this threat, and now come to the talks with such a belligerent attitude. The amount of incompetence and distrust that he was feeling was unprecedented.
“GRATITUDE! TURD DAUGHTER!” Spellgate’s avatar demanded, screaming like a million ghosts were within it.
“Not while you insult me and my people,” Layryn told them, glancing down at the avatar, “do it again and I might keep your forces as my prisoners.”
“WHAT DARE SH-- HOW YOU WHAT DARE HAVE NERVE - KILL YOU!!!”
“I was merely joking,” Layryn said with a cunning smile, “they have been well-taken care off, and we have sent half of them on their way to you already. We offer our gratitude,” Layryn caved in, though only partly, “if in word only.”
The avatar stopped trembling and blinking, managing to relax. It went back to its usual form, thought it now lacked the smile. It was now serious.
“Good,” it simply stated, “now, what shall we do with the dolls?”
“That right there says everything about how Katsuryu managed to rally them,” Skullerbee said, still not jolly or happy in the least. “They are not dolls. They are living beings like us, and were they respected, this could all have been avoided.”
The city of Spellgate didn’t bat an eye.
“…and that’s the bee. What do you say?”
“I say we exile them. Or we hunt them down and concentrate them all in one place. I say we either enslave them, officially, or we eradicate them. Or exile them. ”
Skullerbee eyed her, eyebrow raised.
“A bit too personal, no?”
“THEY BURNED MY FOREST!” Layryn yelled all of a sudden and Skullerbee noticed how she twitched, her left arm slightly moving to grab her right, but it stopped and went back. “You are damn right it is personal. We Fea will not accept any other judgment.”
“There was a Rei who assisted in Katsuryu’s death, though,” Pandeem mentioned. “Ended his life himself.”
“I am willing to concede exceptions,” Layryn half-nodded, “but they all need to be brought and trialed and processed.”
“You are inviting further strife and war, Layryn,” Skullerbee pleaded, “I beg you to reconsi--”
“That’s madam president to you, lord emperor. Do not treat me with such candor.”
Skullerbee then sealed in his mind. She was a woman scorned…he looked at them all again. Then he sighed. The disaster was unleashed, there was no avoiding it. It was time to stop worrying about the other, and focus on Aellea.
“We decide on what to do with the Rei in each of our territories.”
“Agreed,” Pandeer nodded.
“NO!” Layryn argued.
“We can deal,” Spellgate reacted.
“No! We need to contain them all! Every last one of them!”
“With all due respect…Madam President,” Skullerbee said without actually managing any, “you are too emotional to make that call. If you wish to invite doom, you will do it upon your nation alone.”
“YOU invite doom upon MY city by leaving them alone! It’s MY city they want, none of yours!”
“It has been decided, Madam President,” Pandeer called out in his calm voice, “please, I appeal to your reasonable side. Your people have killed many of them. Any Rei would be an utter fool to step foot anywhere near your territory after what’s happened.”
She crossed the arms, her right one going through the left.
“Fine,” she said, obviously not convinced, “as you will. What else do you want?”
“The stones, my dear,” Pandeer carefully said. “That is the…matter of greater import.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have Bellhall’s stone and it alone.”
“The adventurers retrieved two…Fairgrifen’s and Spellgate’s. Aellea is still short of hers, and we know Katsuryu’s clone walked into battle with two stones, the second being the one.”
“Both Rei and Jun were at that battle,” Layryn remarked, a bit spiteful, “maybe you should check with them.”
“We will,” Spellgate offered, with a cracking smile.
Skullerbee looked around, letting the silence argue for him. All of his hands hugged as he looked at Layryn and quietly, calmly, asked, “is that how it’s going to be?”
Layryn looked at him back, meeting his gaze with double the challenge. “We don’t have it.”
Skullerbee’s belly rumbled, as it most often did whenever he felt like it. He knew how to do it, but it was that much easier when he was upset.
And he was very upset.
“It seems I grow indisposed,” he massaged his belly, “I would call this meeting to an end.”
“Fine by me,” Layryn said, disconnecting without further notice. Spellgate smiled a nod and disappeared.
“Dire times ahead, aren’t there?” Pandeer asked, looking at Skullerbee like an old friend, who knew him from way back but could no longer trust him. Skullerbee offered him a normal smile anyway.
Layryn was quick to sit down once the session was over. She bit her lip in an effort to handle the pain.
“It’s over, come back here and resume the healing!”
A Fea healer was quick to return to Layryn, whose left hand squeezed the right shoulder, just above where she had lost her arm. Every second the wound stung and hurt was an eternal reminder of what the Rei had done to her life, people, and home. Good thing she could hide that loss when using the spell to join the meeting.
She was angry. The Fea had lost so much, and all because of Spellgate, and the Rei, and these other nations who now wished to protect Bellhall’s enemies.
“The adventurer who freed Katsuryu’s killers, and then led the attack on the Rei forces.”
“Leaf, madam,” said her captain.
“Right. Call him. I must reward him…and perhaps,” she thought on the world of politics, looking for what Bellhall’s next move should be, “perhaps I shall task him further.”
“Yes, madam, right away.”
Pandeer silently gazed out of his tower for a few seconds before taking a deep breath, after which he proceeded to the meeting room, to relay the results of the meeting to the rest of the leading body.
He sat down, seeing the only three original aristocrats. Breem had already healed and was looking healthy, though as old and tired as usual. A few had already been substituted, though not all. He breathed again, and then he looked forward into the future, seeing the webs of politics and control and power in front of him, trying to think of all the things that were escaping him…like Faircloth had.
“Bad tidings, I’m afraid.”
Ramachandra disconnected from the populace spell, feeling pretty good. Shinyaki, the greatest asset of his greatest competition, had been slain. And that was the greatest competition because the original greatest competition had recently been sacrificed in order to send the army to aid Bellhall.
It amused him to think that Shinyaki thought himself smart enough to be a double agent against him. Meanwhile, Spellgate had their stone back, his territory and power were expanding, and all and all…Spellgate had come out on top.
If Aellea had gotten their stone, they would have come out on top since they were the only city not to lose any soldiers to the whole mess…but they hadn’t. Plus, all the different leaders were tense and distrustful, having surrendered to passive aggressiveness and distrust, dealing with people who are working all kinds of angles in the background…well, that was an everyday thing in Spellgate, something he was very much accustomed to.
Him and everyone other major power in Spellgate.
Yes, in the future, they would have the advantage. There was no doubt about that. So Ramachandra picked up a piece of fruit and enjoyed it very much content with himself.