Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 3

The feast would be strikingly minimal, composed of fare provided by the King’s own garden and the main course cooked simply, made of the common rooftop hen. In the grand dining room, there was nothing present that could suggest extravagance of any kind. There was no pre-dining entertainment, no dancing, no jesting. The tables were covered in simple ivory linen and a single goblet, plate and fork for every guest. The gold utensils and embroidered napkins had been kept in the closets, out of simple necessity, the room was alive with the light of a thousand red and white wax candles.

Half a dozen war-weary soldiers recently returned from Vitnu were present and still adjusting to the Sphere after several years away. Dominious had them seated to the left of his vacant chair. All of these gestures of humility and concern had been orchestrated to prove to his fellow Red Hats that their values and causes where still close to his heart. He hoped to prevent defections by Red Hats that could sink the proposal he had recently worked out with their rivals, the Yellow Hats. They were here, those Council members who had been Lords and Clergymen before becoming members of the illustrious Council, and also those Red Hats who did not sit upon the Council, among these Lord Avin.

“Many Yellow Hats seem ready to embrace the compromise and declare victory,” he said to Dominious as they strolled together through the clusters of men and sweet-scented women waiting to be seated. “The question is whether enough Red Hats will join them in support, especially in the Council, where resentment of your concessions run strong.” Dominious glanced sideways at Lord Avin, his mouth turned down at the corners, but not so strongly that it could be declared a frown.

“And you? What do you think?” he asked while maintaining his forward glance.

Lord Avin sighed, “you know that I am forever your most ardent servant,” he said, and then looked to the King as if he wished to say more. Dominious turned to him and nodded to continue. “I fear that you lose site of the doctrines of our brotherhood. We are stewards of the people, and the Yellow Hats serve only themselves. The people are hungry and over-taxed. They and their children are dying in this bloody drawn-out war. They were sympathetic to the Lucen Scribes, and now that Olslo is dead, the sense of injustice has become heightened. These were wrongs begun during your brother’s reign, and it was believed that after his death, you would set them right, but you yield to the desires of the Yellow Hats at every turn…”

Dominious raised a hand to silence Avin. “You must understand, they are a force to be reckoned with. And they are not entirely wrong. The imprisonment of the Lucen Scribes was necessary, the security tax is necessary, ferreting out our enemies is also necessary. Don’t forget, most of our brethren on the Council voted for the war during my brother’s reign, and for the security tax as well. They understood these necessities then.” Dominious pressed a hand to his forehead, searching for words to explain the particular box he now found himself in, the pressure that came from all sides and prevented action in any direction. “They are like unruly children, both brotherhoods. We must preserve the kingdom. I will speak to all of our brethren tonight. I must make them understand.”

Dominious left Avin to take his place at the head of the table. Soon all were seated at the great horseshoe arrangement of tables. The room buzzed with chatter and the clinking of silverware. An electric lute strummed quietly by the attending bard who sang softly of the orphans housed by Dominous and of the new temples of healing established throughout the kingdom.

Over the general clatter the King caught fragments of conversation. The Red Hats with seats on the Council criticized the compromise, sometimes harshly, but stopped short of saying they would try to stop it. In the middle of it all, the King sat pale and bent in his chair, his face harrowed with creases. His poultry and stewed vegetables remained untouched and grew cold. In the candlelight, the dark circles under his eyes gave him the appearance of a man in the final stages of illness. His thin hands played idly with the silverware as he waited for his moment to speak.

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