A full meeting of the Ingerland Council was underway. Everyone had a healthy portion of honey cakes and wine. Most members listened attentively, while others did other things and listened only absently.
“Next item on the agenda, a last minute addition from Svetlana,” Doug said, “the southern Narlmarches.”
“Yes,” Svetlana said, standing up. “I’ve received several requests from trappers and woodsmen that we open up more of the forest south of the Boggard.”
“Since when did we close the forest south of the Boggard?” Doug asked, looking around the table.
“We haven’t, to my knowledge, but….” Svetlana began.
“I’ll take this, “Dave interjected. “I’ve been telling everyone, and having my rangers tell everyone, to avoid going much more than ten miles south of the Boggard. It’s just too dangerous down there. I don’t have the manpower to start patrolling an area as untamed as that yet.”
“I don’t pretend to know the details,” Svetlana added, “but Corax Feller did venture to the far south Narlmarches. Several trappers had told him of a cache of coachwood groves there. He verified at least one such grove himself. He would have looked for others, but he was chased off by a large creature. He called it a troll, but….he admitted he didn’t really know what one looked like.”
“Well, there you go,” Dave said, gesturing, palm up, “too dangerous.”
“This whole land was too dangerous once,” Doug said. “Six men were able to change that. I think we’ve done admirable work over the last year, and still have work to do, but it sounds as if there is a need right now. I don’t see the point in putting off an expedition by those same six any longer. This isn’t the first such request we’ve postponed or handled minimally such a petition. There’s the haunted burial mound, the hodag, the centaurs.”
“But is this the time?” Eric asked. “There’s still a great deal to be done in the north we control now. I know we should be proactive with threats, but do we want to risk potentially kicking a hornet’s nest? Whatever the decision, the people’s safety must be our first priority.”
“It would be a difficult time for me,” Jesse said, barely looking up from his wine.
Doug looked around the room at everyone. Some seemed more interested in the discussion than others.
“Let’s not argue about it,” Brian interjected. “Doug, as steward, you do not have the power to order such a thing of the Council, but you do have the power to demand a vote on the matter. Might I suggest that we put it to a Council vote?”
“You’re correct, as usual,” Doug said to Brian.
“I wrote most of our powers and procedures,” Brian replied. “If someone beside you and Svetlana had bothered to show up when they were written, likely many others would have had the ability to come to the same conclusion.”
“But that’s why we have you for such things,” Jason said.
“Okay, okay. Let’s put it to a vote,” Doug said loudly. “Should a…subcommittee of the Council…namely our steward, high-mage, sheriff, marshal, spymaster, and ambassador….be sent within the week to the south to address the petition regarding the southern Narlmarches, as well as other petitions for the region, as time permits? My vote is ‘yes’. Svetlana?”
“As the people’s voice, I have to say ‘yes’,” Svetlana replied.
“Oleg must abstain,” Doug said, “Kesten?”
“I’d prefer a focus on reinforcing our existing controlled regions for the time being,” Kesten stated. “My men work hard, but our fortifications are still far from adequate.”
“There you go,” Jesse interrupted. “Excellent points, Kesten.”
“So,” Kesten continued, glaring a bit at Jesse. “I’m afraid that’s a ‘no’ from me.”
“We have two ‘for’ and one ‘against’,” Doug clarified. “Jhod?”
“I feel it would be Erastil’s wish to clear the evil from the forest, and he would look favorably upon Ingerland for such an effort from us,” Jhod explained. “Therefore, I vote ‘yes’.”
“Three ‘for’ and one ‘against’,” Doug recapped. “And it would make Erastil pleased. How ever can we deny Erastil? Jason, your vote.”
“As much as I respect the will of the people and the needs of Erastil,” Jason said, pausing to finish his cup of wine, “I have many….uh, diplomatic matters that have immediacy and time-sensitivity and require my personal attention here in Ingerton.”
“Brewing?” Doug asked.
“There might be brewing and other….matters as well,” Jason answered.
“It could be a chance to meet with the centaur tribes,” Doug said.
“I have sent them a dispatch, proposing a diplomatic meeting, and I would prefer to wait for that response,” Jason replied.
“You have to state your vote,” Doug said, “for the official record.”
“No,” Jason stated.
“Okay. That’s three ‘for’ and two ‘against’.” Doug summarized once more. “Eric?”
“As I said, my concern is that we could be kicking a hornet’s nest that is still far from the cabin,” Eric said. “Do we want to risk bringing to town a problem that is currently limited to frontier? I fear this is what could happen with…with the centaurs, in particular, they trod on Varnhold’s fields. Ingerland could be next. My charge is to protect the towns and their citizenry, and that must be my priority in voting. Therefore, my vote is ‘no’.”
“Three ‘for’ and three ‘against’ and three votes to go then,” Doug said. “David?”
“If one puts off pulling the weeds too long, the garden quickly becomes nothing but weeds,” Dave said. “I’m not sure we’re adequately tamed within our lands, but I fear ignoring these problems any longer will only lead to them encroaching on us at a time of their choosing, rather than ours. As my charge is controlling the frontiers of our land, my vote is ‘yes’.”
“Four-three. Jesse?” Doug asked.
“I can see how some of these long-winded responses are driving you insane,” Jesse answered, “so I will, of course….continue to be long-winded.”
“Of course you will,” Doug said.
“Though this is a crucial juncture in our geographic and political position for the region, I am in the midst of quite a number of temporally sensitive upgrades to our espionage infrastructure…” Jesse began.
“I’m sorry for interrupting,” Doug said, rubbing his brow and laughing, “but what in the names of all the gods have you been reading?”
“Is it that obvious?” Jesse asked.
“Yes,” several people said.
“Brian gave me this to read,” Jesse said, pulling a handful of scrolls from his coat. “It’s a history of the power behind the throne during the empire of…”
“I think I speak for everyone when I ask of your to stop and just give us your answer so that it can go into the record,” Doug interrupted.
“Fine,” Jesse replied. “I am badly needed for immediate whoring and consumption of spirits. So, ‘nay’.”
“I appreciate you candor and honesty,” Doug said.
“That’s redundant,” Brian injected.
“Noted,” Doug said with a nod. “Four to four, one abstention, and one vote left to be cast. Brian, it comes down to you.”
“And I have been listening to all of the rationales both ‘for’ and ‘against’. It has been particularly noted that most are using the charge of their office as the foundation for their vote,” Brian explained. “I find this both admirable and appropriate. In that same vein, I’m afraid I also have some rather time-sensitive matters over the next several weeks, and possibly longer depending on trade routes. There are some tomes coming through by caravan that I will have access to for just a short period of time. They are important for our understanding of the region’s eldritch history.”
“There’s a ‘no’ in there, right?” Doug asked.
“Uh…yes,” Brian said, “as in, ‘no’.”
“I see,” Doug said, with a little disappointment. “Five ‘against’, and that’s a majority vote, everyone. The record will reflect that the vote was ‘against’. Perhaps we’ll take up the issue again in the future, Svetlana.”
Doug made some notes onto some parchment.
“I have nothing else on the agenda for today,” Doug stated. “Does anyone have any last minute requests before adjournment?”
Everyone shook their heads, some obviously eager to leave.
“Very well,” Doug said, “This meeting is officially adjourned. Before everyone leaves, however, we should confirm the details for the next Council meeting.”
“We’re not meeting next week, same time?” Jason asked, putting on his coat.
“No,” Doug replied. “The next Council meeting will be in ten days at dawn in the southern Narlmarches next to the waterline where we found that slaughtered unicorn last year.”
“That’s not how the vote went,” Jason argued. “You can’t just over-ride a majority Council decision. Uhm…can he, Brian?”
“No, he absolutely cannot,” Brian agreed.
“Absolutely,” Doug agreed, “wouldn’t dream of it. It would be an act of anarchy and completely in violation of the rule of law that we established. Without any argument from me, the vote stands.”
Everyone looked Doug in silence for several moments.
“However….Brian, can you remind everyone who has sole authority to set the date and time…and location of Council meetings?” Doug asked.
“No,” Jesse said, mouth agape, looking toward Brian.
“The steward,” Brian ceded.
“Wow,” Jesses said quietly, slumping in his seat with a half-smile, “Well played, Douglas Smith. Well played.”
“You’re saying he can just…?” Jason started to ask.
“He can,” Brian reconfirmed, “for now. I think that’s a rule we’ll be putting to a Council vote as needing a change.”
“Certainly,” Doug said, making a note on parchment again. “Of course, as this meeting was officially adjourned, that vote will have to be the first order of business at our next meeting.”
“The next meeting in the Narlmarches?” Kesten asked.
“Yes,” Doug replied, “but as the steward also assigns required attendees; Kesten, Jhod, Oleg, and Svetlana, are all designated as optional attendees for the next meeting only.”
Brian nodded as everyone looked toward him for a confirmation.
“All required attendees should meet morning after next to begin the journey south,” Doug announced, as people began shuffling out.
Brian and Jesse wanted by the door until Doug was leaving.
“That works only once,” Brian said plainly.
“I know,” Doug replied.
“That was devious,” Jesse said. “I’d be proud if I wasn’t one of the ones being suckered.”
“Sorry,” Doug replied. “It was only a back-up. I was cautiously hopeful the votes would go my way.”.
“Since I no longer have a choice otherwise,” Brian stated, “I would say that I’m now rather looking forward to getting out on the dark paths once again, the promise of both danger and wonder at each turn.”
“Liar,” Jesse said.
“Yeah,” Brian admitted.
They all laughed.