“They killed the Fair Lady!” The fury’s head-feathers bristled. Her long beak was curved like a sickle. She moved across the banquet hall, her talons clicking against the floor, pushing past the Titled trying to calm her. Military honors decorated a sleeveless vest, which let her wings move free. “They have no right to sit with us! They have no right to breathe! Let us kill them and get about our business!”
Theodore had expected this from General Warsong. He made a point to do as much research as he could about all the Titled in attendance. What he hadn’t expected was her to call for his and Oboe’s death before the council even started.
“We aren’t going anywhere, General,” Theodore said. As aggressive as Warsong was, he knew by reputation that it would be far more dangerous to back down from her. “Your own laws are clear on the matter. Every creature has a right to defend itself when attacked. Bassoon meant to kill us.”
“And she would have! But you employed a vorpal blade! There was no honor in how she was slain!”
The general’s shouting drew the attention of the whole room. Oboe found him, rushed to his side. “Is she threatening you??”
He placed a grateful hand on the small of her back. “It’s okay,” he said, and stepped past her to lock eyes with Warsong.
“You’re right,” he told her. “It was not an honorable fight. Bassoon was a powerful fairy, perhaps the strongest this land will ever see. We did what we had to in order to survive, but I take no pride in it. I made certain that sword was dispelled and melted down.”
Feather, the Gardner, spoke up. “Our Fair Lady was not known for her honor. She valued cunning. If power was ever to be taken from her, this is the only way she would’ve respected.”
“I think we all want what’s best for the Fairy Circle,” Theodore said. “We may not agree on what that is, but I think we can all come together and debate in a way that’s fair, a way that’s honorable, we can arrive at one best vision for a future that can benefit everyone.”
Theodore noticed something out of the corner of his eye. A team of serving gnomes scurried across the rafters overhead, dragging a big mallet. They clambered onto each other’s shoulders, teetering, careful not to step on each other’s quills. Together they swung the mallet and rung a big gong. The sound reverberated throughout the hall, washing away the tense mood and signaling that it was time for the council to begin.
“Very well,” Warsong said. “I accept your challenge.” She held out her hand and squeezed her clawed fingers into a fist. “I will OBLITERATE you in fair and civil debate and create a peace so lasting and perfect that you will despair at ever having set foot in our lands!” With that, she marched off to be the first one at the table. The crowd thinned, climbing the stairs after her, toward what promised to be a long and arduous day.
“You got her to calm down,” Oboe said.
“Just barely,” Theodore said. “Thank you for being ready to step in.” He felt safer and bolder with her at his side. “Here’s more good news. Gardner Feather is on our side.”
She bowed. “Some of the Titled are calling for rebellion against the crown. I want to advocate for the alliance to be maintained. Despite the problems between our peoples, I believe the path of cooperation is what the Mother expects from all her children.”
Something was troubling Oboe. “…I think Beira is one that wants to rebel,” she said. “We can’t trust her. She’s sneaky and she’s angry about the humans being here.”
“I think everyone’s upset about that,” Theodore said. The City Watch and the Knights of the Realm certainly were not excited about maintaining martial law. “They’re all scared because their home’s been invaded. That’s okay. We can reason with them.”
“I don’t know.” Oboe’s eyes drifted toward the heraldry hanging throughout the hall. Old banners bearing the Fair Lady’s emblem, the acorn and its keyhole, Oboe’s family’s crest, were left over from her regime. “It’s like grandmother is still here. Like she left a curse, and everyone thinks like she did. I hate it.”
“We must have faith that these things can change,” Feather said. “If we’re patient, and work together, perhaps we can sway their hearts and show them a better way.”
Lips tight and brow stooped, Oboe did not look convinced.