Steve the ironsmith was sleeping at his desk in the Hall of Enlightenment. His hairy arm dangled on the red oak desk. Even though everyone in the Silverflow council knew the only kind of vote he would cast was “I abstain”, the meeting could not start on without his participation.
So, instead, they started a vote to boot the ironsmith out.
But, Steve was fast to react, raising the “I object” sheet before everyone else could vote. All other councilors abstained and the baron started a new repeal vote which passed on yet another full set of abstains.
Turn out, Steve was not entirely asleep. He grew an acute sensitivity to his name; one mention of his name across the hall, no matter how minute in volume, would wake him from deep slumber. And only his name worked, nothing else did.
In a nutshell, it was a useless skill that sounded more and more like an excuse he made up on the spot so that he could go back to sleep.
The naturalist dubbed it “Sleeping beauty” syndrome.
As soon as they started to compare calling names to kissing, the bishop and the deacon insisted only female councilors should wake him up; for it was blasphemy for a man to kiss another man.
They also ruled that it should be someone other than Lilia. She was, after all, a priestess of the church and she must remain chaste in servitude of the Lord.
So, since they only had two women in the council and the baron was against bringing outsiders in, it came down to the agriculturalist. The old woman licked her eighty-year-old lips twice before sending the ironsmith a figurative wake-up kiss.
“Steve, my handsome princess,” she mused.
Steve rolled off his bench and banged his head against one leg of the desk. He begged the council to just kick him next time.
And that was how they got the Ironsmith’s full attention for the rest of the meeting.
“I believe we can start the session now. First councilor today is, ah yes, thank you Lilia. The architect, please present your topic,” the baron called.
That was Leo. He went first.
The topic of the day was the dragon sighting over Ironheart and the ensuing havoc it wrecked in the witch’s domain.
“It is utmost important, councilors. A dragon appeared in Ironheart and there was no forewarning from the Solaris Observatory. I’m concerned. Is the instrument broken? Wizard, may I know who watched that shift?”
His question addressed the princess who also held the master rank in Wizardry.
“It was I who watched that shift, architect,” she answered.
“Is there any deviant? Were you able to see Azeth?”
“I saw Azeth, crystal clear.”
The astronomer rose up, “the alignment was still fine. I checked it myself the same moon the attack happened,” he said.
“Then it can’t be my fault, since the astronomer already checked the scope,” the mathematician added.
“Nor mine,” Leo said.
“Wizard, are you certain you did not fall asleep?” the merchant cut in.
“Hold it, how dare you Steve the princess?” the baron interrupted.
The ironsmith responded to the remark. Laughter exploded in the council hall. The discussion resumed after a brief reminder of objectivity from the baron. Questioning another councilor’s competency was strictly prohibited.
Albeit, Leo thought this ruling had been unusually harsh.
“If a dragon could fly from Azeth to Ironheart in the time I sleep, we wouldn’t need the Observatory. We would need a morgue. Unless I have slept for three days, which, as we all know, is equally absurd.”
“A dragon does not travel on the same vector as a horse, wizard. It can reach Ironheart in a day or less by air—”
The mathematician turned to confirm the world’s inner dimension with the geographer for a moment. The geographer nodded and the mythologist verified the dragon’s speed. Confident with his calculation, the mathematician continued:
“—In fact, it should be twenty-eight moons and six hours, give or take two. This is for the direct path, as for the path following the curvature of the planet, it is—”
His demonstration was cut short.
“The math is irrelevant,” the princess dismissed, saying: “My point stands that a creature the size of a small village cannot remain undetected that long. Unless…Azeth created a new teleport or illusion magic we don’t know about. And at this scale, it is likely a ritual, a delayed one.”
“A delayed ritual? I think I might have something…”
The historian looked through his thick record book. He found an entry from an old council meeting. He brought the entry to the council’s attention.
The old wizard reported a strong burst of magical energy from Azeth during the eleventh eclipse. The event took place before he went missing and Lilia became the new wizard.
“Ah, yes, that reminds me…”
The astronomer remembered seeing a “residual” aurora distinctive to the Light of Azeth in the moon’s background at the time. His report overlapped the old wizard’s report. The council originally concluded both events described a Light of Azeth’s malfunction that had nothing to do with Ironheart.
“I’m afraid I can’t look into the matter anytime soon. Fathers, can you take this job?”
“Very well, priestess, I’ll take it”.
That was the deacon and the mythologist.
“So, you—Leo gestured Lilia—call him and him—he moved his finger towards the bishop and then the deacon—“Fathers” but he calls you simply “Priestess”. Why is that?”
“What…do you propose then, uh…inventor?”
He could sense hesitation in her voice. He heard the deacon hissing in contempt; the none-of-your-business contempt.
“Mother? It is logical, no?”
“Tradition, tradition, inventor. Please don’t mind how we call one another in the church and focus on the task at hand,” the bishop said.
The second topic they discussed was about the cure. This issue was raised by Lilia as the alchemist. She congratulated Leo for the discovery of a cure. His discovery would put an end to the deadly plague that had been killing tens of thousands people and countless cattle in Ironheart over a decade.
The council tapped their knuckles on the long red oak desk to show approval.
“He’s low on an ingredient for the cure; a plant in the Dark Forest. So he approached me with a proposal. I’ll be working on a transmutation formula for the ingredient while he’ll be figuring out how to get into grafting.”
Grafting? That was it! Grafting!
He did not need to grow a new flower from seeds. He could graft a Midnight Virgin’s stem into another plant and grow more of them.
“Are you going to be me too, inventor?”
As he was celebrating the new idea in his head, the agriculturist spoke up. She appeared irritated that they left her out of their plan.
“Not if I can help it, prince charming. Say, how about you take care of this project instead? I do have a few other things to attend to as the herbalist, perhaps looking for an alternative recipe that uses a different ingredient.”
This was not the first time they feuded. He still would rather not get on the agriculturist’s bad side. He practically lived in her core support neighborhood and he could use fewer rocks wrapped in death threats.
“Ask, and it shall be given.”
The deacon smiled when he heard these phrases.
“What is the name of this ingredient?” she asked.
“Midnight Virgin. It’s a grass-like flower and I need the stem,” he answered.
“I have been growing all kinds of herbs for half a century. I swear I have never heard of a plant with a cheesier name. Well, since you said you need the stem, you must have spare stems lying around. I’ll need them for grafting. Where are they?”
“In the ice box at Brown’s. I have seeds in there as well. Here is the receipt.”
“Good, good, it shall be done.”