Steve the ironsmith had been sleeping before every Silverflow Council meeting. Even though everyone in the council knew the only kind of vote he would cast was “I abstain”, his participation was still required.
Half of the time, he would fall asleep during the meeting and someone in the council would start a vote to boot the ironsmith out. In these times, however, Steve would always be the first to act, shouting “I object” before everyone else could vote. All other councilors would abstain to conclude the motion with a failure. To make doubly sure the ironsmith was with them, the baron would use his repeal power to start a vote in order to overturn the previous motion. This repeal would inevitably fail on yet another full set of abstains as long as Steve voted.
Steve was never 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 the deepest 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 the Sleeping beauty syndrome.
At this moon’s meeting, the bishop and the deacon hatched a plan to end the ironsmith’s sloth once and for all. They insisted that, since calling his name was the equivalence of a prince’s kiss, only female councilors should wake him up from then on; 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 to the Lord.
And as they only had two women in the council and the baron would not allow outsiders in, it came down to the grumpy agriculturalist, granny Annabel. 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.
This time, Steve rolled off his bench and banged his head against one leg of a refreshment table in front of him. He groaned and begged the council to just kick him next time.
The inventor, who sat next to Steve in the council, gave him a nudge and discretely gestured his thumb toward the elevated throne at the other end of the circular hall. On that crimson oaken throne sat Sir Richard Gregory, the one many considered the de facto monarch of Ironheart even though he was only a regent.
Sir Richard was a baron when he wedded Queen Rosemarie. He still held to his baron title as it was the last title he earned himself. This man whose greaves had treaded the bloodiest battles in the last holy war was eyeing the ironsmith and stretching his feet. Then, he smacked the arms of his throne and rose.
Steve broke into cold sweats and jumped right up. He straightened his back and shouted:
“I object! I want to be kicked by prince charming!”
Father Felacia let out a light chuckle. The princess, who sat on the bishop’s left, frowned and appeared less amused by this development than the deacon, who sat on the bishop’s right.
Sir Richard approached the center where a circular platform was raised from the obsidian floor. He stepped on it and this simple act silenced the whole council. Clearing his throat, the baron delivered the opening statement. His tone this time was solemn; unlike his usual light-hearted opening statements.
“Last moon, a dragon appeared in Ironheart. Its targets are the witch and her hideout in the Dark Forest. Just telling this much detail, you all must have already realized who’s responsible,” the baron boomed.
It took only a moment for the whole council to break into joyous cheers. Councilors showed their approval by knocking on tables of refreshments with their bare knuckles. A few senior councilors; the agriculturist and the geographer in particular; could not believe what they just heard and got up on their feet to ask for confirmation from other councilors.
While this had not been good news for the inventor as he was in cahoots with the witch, he forced himself to grin and cheer along with the rest of the council. He looked at the bishop and found the man’s celebration consisted of a series of slow and satisfying nods and a quiet bright smile on his lips.
Soon, Leo noticed the princess next to the bishop still wore a worried expression. The baron shared the same troubled look as he waited for the cheer to calm down before continuing.
“His Excellency’s…there is no other word for this…His Excellency’s foolishness has left our kingdom in peril. He might have gotten rid of the witch but her curse remains. Our kingdom is now facing the same crisis we faced eight years ago. The ashes of the most corrupted, most wretched, and most vile forest in Ashlora have filled the sky and they will descend upon us in due time!”
There were no more smiles, no more cheers, and no more snores from the ironsmith, who took advantage of the situation to put on a pair of woolen earmuffs and sleep soundly on the empty bench. The agriculturist gave Steve a whack with her cane on the way back.
“I implore you, our greatest minds! Set aside your differences and lend Ironheart your wisdom!” the baron urged.