After a brief recess, the Council reconvened to cast their votes on three proposals that tackled the imminent dust fall. The agriculturist’s idea to build shelters and greenhouses was the first to be considered. The motion was passed almost unanimously with a single abstain from the ironsmith.
According to the initial plan drafted by the strategist; the merchant, the mathematician, the ironsmith, and the architect would be responsible for the construction of underground shelters and greenhouses. Citizens were instructed to provide every support they could: be it monetary or labor contribution.
In other words, heavy taxation and conscription.
The plan did not sit well with the bishop, who demanded a repeal from the baron. Neither did it sit well with the princess, who challenged the strategist for his title and the right to draft the plan. Nevertheless, because no one was opposing the idea itself, the baron decided to acknowledge the motion and move on to the next proposal.
The second proposal to negotiate with the dragon in Gondrash and enlist its assistance was much more dramatic. The voting began with Sir Richard who remained seated on his oaken throne as he cited the traditional pledge with all its nuances and formally announced his vote:
“I, Speaker of the first Council, hereby invest my votes, four as the baron of Ironheart, four in total, in favor of the motion.”
Among the three factions in the Silverflow Council, the noble faction had priority over the other two. Then, among each faction, the faction leader got the early vote. Thus, the baron’s first vote was considered the most influential vote in the council as he could rally more allies than anyone could.
His greatest ally, his own daughter, Princess Lilia came next. She got the second vote as a member of the noble faction.
“I, Councilor of the twenty-sixth, twenty-eighth, and twenty-ninth Councils, hereby invest my votes, four as the heiress of the Ruby Garden, two as the priestess of Saint Tenrid, one as the wizard, and one as the alchemist, eight in total, in favor of the motion.”
When it came to Father Felacia’s turn, however, he added one further call to the pledge and earned much ire from the baron.
“I, Councilor of the first Council, hereby invest my votes, four as the bishop of Ironheart dominion, four in total, in favor of the motion. It is we, and not our citizens, who must shoulder this calamity.”
“That is not proper,” the baron interjected.
“Keep doing that and you can join D’Amore on the blacklist next session,” the baron warned as he trained his gaze on the last representative of the church.
“I, Councilor of the twentieth Council, hereby invest my votes, two as the deacon of Saint Tenrid, two in total…—“
Father Graham’s voice grew muffled. His lips trembled and made no sound.
The council held its breath and waited in silence for the deacon to make the decision.
“—I invest m-my votes…in favor of the motion.”
Then, the deacon slumped onto his seat. He was deadly pale and was sweating profusely as though he had just seen his own death.
Maybe he really had…
The council became contemplative. Here and there, doubtful glances and head shakes were exchanged between the remaining councilors. The gossip machine had begun to roar when it was the masters’ turn to vote.
Unlike the noble highborn and the priests, the masters did not waste time on lengthy incantations. Each wrapped the pledge in a matter of seconds and gave no heed to the etiquette in the Hall of Guidance.
“Four votes, I object!” the inventor started.
“I too object! One vote,” the agriculturist nodded.
“One vote, abstain!” the astronomer muttered with a tired expression.
“One vote, approve!” the strategist crossed his arms.
“I abstain,” the geographer declared.
“O merciful Lord, I sing humbly against thy holy servants,” the historian mused.
“Bad deal for me. Reject!” the merchant smirked.
“Second that. One vote, I object!” the diplomat stroke his beard and grinned.
“One uncertainty too many, unacceptable,” the mathematician groaned, eyeing the deacon.
“I blame Gerath for the melodrama here. One vote, I object!” the naturalist shook his head disapprovingly.
The tally was twenty-one approves and abstains—in other words, one abstain short of passing—when the ball was in the ironsmith’s court. Against all expectations, the final and decisive vote went to the latest and least experienced councilor.
“No,” the ironsmith barked.
“Stevie said what?” the historian raised an eyebrow. He could not believe his ears anymore. No one who had seen Steve the sleeping beauty could.
“I said no! Write that down correctly: I stand against the motion,” he repeated with much uncalled for animosity.
“But why?” the princess scowled, her voice contained a hint of mixed puzzlement and annoyance.
Steve eyed the princess from across the obsidian hall. He fidgeted his thumb between his index and middle finger; a sign of thoughtfulness few had seen in this normally carefree man.
After much contemplation, he crossed his fingers, straightened his back and spoke his mind loudly and clearly for all to hear:
“Because…Her Highness, I promised someone that I will keep you safe. And there is no way in high hell I’m letting you go on a picnic to a dragon’s lair with a bunch of cheeky cowards who can’t even stand next to a forge without crying mother.”
The ironsmith again paused to search for other reasons. Finally, he concluded with a simple remark while indicating the inventor with his thumb:
“And because he is my pal.”
“Thanks for the heart-warming afterthought,” the inventor hissed in disdain but gave the youngster a gleeful nudge.
And thus, the second proposal was struck down at a single vote short of the twenty-two votes passing margin.
The baron shook his head, let out a long sigh, and held up one hand to draw attention.
“The bishop’s proposal has been rejected by nineteen for, eleven against and two abstains. Very well! I shall acknowledge the will of the Council as the will of the throne.”
He glimpsed at the princess. His expression loosened. His tone grew less harsh than before. His eyes were closed as he dived into a distant memory.
“I admit, sometimes I forget how boisterous this child is. Take my eyes off her for a second and she will run headlong into the wood…”
His quiet reminiscence ended. His eyes were open. His dignified tone returned. He once again addressed the Council.
“There is no need for the last proposal. We will follow madam Anabel’s idea and we will get through this on our own power!”
A round of wood knocking resounded through the Hall of Guidance. It took two more hours to polish the strategist’s draft but when the meeting finally ended, no one was happier than the ironsmith that it did.