Leaping from shadow to shadow, Shianne cursed under her breath. These are not simple soldiers, she thought. These are assassins. Though the two Wolves she had been tailing for the better part of the night wore the uniforms of standard Mormant military, their movements belied their true nature.
In the past few weeks the situation in the Republic of Katheyra had worsened. Shianne had watched quietly as more Wolves took up residence in the great capital city of San Vincent’s Port, and watched as more and more ships from Mormant filled the marina, outnumbering the local trading vessels near tenfold. She had also witnessed a great many Wolves leaving the city, which lead her to believe that the military was setting up camps elsewhere in Katheyra. A thing that never would have been permitted by the Republic’s Council of Elders before, now seemed to come all too easily to the Wolves.
So Shianne had spent her time following soldiers and military officials around the city, and tailing any Councillors that left the Council House, in an effort to find the link that would be the undoing of the Republic. But they were being careful, and she had yet to catch anyone in the treasonous act of consorting with high-ranking Wolves, like Commander Rollstad, who had become a staple in the city.
The sun was starting to lighten the sky. Shianne gave up her pursuit of the assassins as she found herself in the shadows cast by the Council House. She watched as the Wolves darted away towards the Western gate.
In a few short hours, the Council House would be holding a public forum in their grand chamber; the quarterly town-hall-meeting. And she would be there, ready to finally see which Council members favoured relations with the Wolves. Oh there was plenty of gossip about which Councillors were for and against, but she knew better than to trust idle gossip about something so important. And beyond needing to know who the problem Councillors were, she urgently needed to know of any which openly opposed a union with Mormant, for they could become much needed allies in the near future.
Sinking down to sit below one of the great trees that littered the lawn of the Council House, overlooking the square in front of it, Shianne watched as Badgers of various trade wheeled their carts up and began setting up for their day. The sun rose higher and the market square began to show signs of opening. Making her way over to the savory smells of veggie pasties, Shianne bought herself a few as a breakfast, and a mug of cider and watched as a crowd began to form in front of the Council House.
The Republic of Katheyra had long been home to any and all of the lands, but it was never quite so evident as right then. While the crowd consisted of many Badgers, there were Mice, Bears, and even the odd Wolf gathering for the forum. Shianne wiped her paws on her breeches and joined the edged of the ragged group, listening and watching the Wolves among the throng of folks carefully for any sign that they may be spies of the army. It wasn’t completely unheard of for a Wolf to defect and live in Katheyra, but it wasn’t common either.
Before long the doors opened and the group began filing in, being led by attendants into the grand chamber, and filed into rows of stiff, wooden benches. Shianne loathed being sandwiched so close to anyone else, and her paws itched to shove the little Badger sitting next to her away, but she reined in her temper and discomfort, because this meeting was too important for her to get kicked out of. Thank Annalose and Ardra I got an aisle seat, she thought, shifting so that, though uncomfortable, she had an inch or so of space between her and her seatmate.
Peering around, Shianne was unsurprised to see the massive chamber’s rows of benches completely full, with more standing around the edges of the room. With all the rumors swirling around about an alliance with Mormant, it wasn’t surprising to see so many gathered together. Though the Council had released no official statement and could choose to not address it at all if they wanted, Shianne was fairly certain the throngs of citizens gathered would demand some clarity on the matter. The Badgers were not known for their political involvement, as a general rule. Their governing republic was elected democratically, but the general interest level in politics was quite low among the Badgers. To see so many come out for the meeting meant that either, the perception of the Badgers society wasn’t necessarily accurate, or they were just as scared as she was about a possible alliance with the Wolves. She listened carefully to the low hum of chatter, trying to pick up the collective feeling of the space, but could determine nothing but a faint scent of worry.
The wide double doors at the far end of the chamber swung open suddenly, and the Council members entered the grand chamber, climbing the low steps up to the three tiers of semi-circle tables and chairs, that was their official seating. The seats were raised up high enough so that all could see in the grand chamber, with amplification crystals set into the tables at regular intervals so that their voices carried when they spoke. Slowly the Council of Elders filtered in, each taking their space in their designated spot, until everyone was seated, with the Bear Björn leaving his space open to sit in the Council Elder’s space. Though he had not been elected to replace Council Elder Elgress, he was acting as interim chief. It was at that point that Shianne noticed two other curiously vacant seats.
Councilman Björn cleared his throat, and a hush fell over the assembled group.
“This is the official public forum for quarter Autumn of Turning 1276. Let the record show that the grand chamber stands full beyond its capacity.” Two Badgers sitting just beside the arranged council members scribbled furiously onto thick pads of parchment. Having said that, the Bear launched into what felt like to Shianne an impossibly long rundown of regular city updates, bureaucratic ongoings, and updates on things noted at the Summer public forum. Several council members addressed issues specific to their regions, and then began the public petition portion of the meeting, where residents could have their issues heard by the Council.
Shianne leaned forward eagerly as the first Badger in a long line of petitioners stepped up to address the Council.
“I was told that only one fish cart was allowed per square in each subquadrant of the western quarter, so I set up my shop there. I travel every day from the south quarter to sell my fish there but now two other fish carts have appeared and my business in dwindling. What is to be done of this?” the little Badger squawked and Shianne let out a frustrated sigh, leaning back in her seat and crossing her arms over her chest. The petitioners continued with similar issues until Shianne was all but ready to rip her fur out in clumps.
Finally, Councilman Björn stood, waving his hand to dismiss the remaining petitioners.
“I apologize but we have run out of time in this portion of our meeting. Please address your councilman by letter with your grievance and he or she shall get it sorted out for you.” Shianne was about to stand, eager to get out of the Council House, despite having learned nothing of interest when the Bear continued to speak. “One final matter: as you all know, since Council Elder Elgress retired, we have been unable to come to a decision amongst ourselves to elect a new leader for the Council. I have been standing in as Intermin Council Elder in his absence, and I am pleased to report that we have finally reached a decision. As of this day, I am no longer Interim leader of the Republic of Katheyra’s Council of Elders. I have been selected as Elgress’ replacement officially, and stand before you as your leader.” Shianne felt her jaw clench involuntarily, and noticed the beat of silence before the assembled crowd began to applaud. I’m not the only one who doesn’t trust that Bear, she thought, as she slipped out of her row and past the still applauding people until she was out into the foyer of the Council House.
Saying a private thank you to Annalose and Ardra for the Council aids being either not-diligent in their duties of monitoring the corridors leading off from the foyer, or simply distracted by the meeting, Shianne slipped down a corridor unnoticed. She continued to breeze through corridors unchallenged. Finally, she reached an antechamber that lead to the first-floor residences. Tucking herself behind the heavy woven drapes by the tall windows, she centered herself and stood quietly, waiting for the council members to adjourn their meeting.
She didn’t have to wait long before the thudding of footsteps and the murmur of voices drifted down the corridors. Two unfamiliar voices entered the antechamber, speaking in hushed tones.
“Of course I changed my vote! Do you think I want to end up like Councilman Eelinn, or Councilwoman Darmascus?” One of the voices made a frustrated sound.
“We will all end up like them now that that Bear is in control of the council. The Wolves are already in the Republic in record numbers, and not a single motion has been passed to allow their soldiers to travel our lands, but we are getting reports of them from as far as Windermere!” The first voice made a dismayed sound.
“I don’t know what we are to do of it to stop it, Lerke. I fear we are past stopping this.” The second voice blew out a sigh.
“All the years we stood for keeping this a free land for all, wasted; worth nothing if the Wolves get the power they seek. And you know as well as I do that Council Elder Björn bows to Commander Rollstad at every chance he gets.” The sneer in the councilman’s voice was enough to give Shianne all of the information that she needed. Stepping out from behind the curtain, she smiled at the shocked expressions on the two old Badger’s faces.
“Gentleman, it seems we have a common goal.” One of the Badger’s took a step back.
“Who are you? What are you doing in here? This part of the Council House is off limits to all but members of the Council and aids!” Shianne smiled again,
“All you need to know about me is that I have been following very closely the plot of the Wolves to take control of Katheyra, and that I have been doing what I can to slow their progress. It seems though, that your friend here,” she said gesturing to the Badger who had admitted to changing his vote and allowing Björn to be elected, “Is coward enough to give the Wolves exactly what they want.” She was unable to keep the biting edge out of her voice, and watched the Badger cower away from her. “Now,” she said, “May I suggest we adjourn somewhere more private so that you two can fill me in on what has happened to the two council member’s you mentioned, as I assume those are the two that were missing from today’s meeting?” The Badger who she now identified as Councilman Lerke, nodded and gestured for her to follow him. She waited for the other Badger to join his friend before departing down the hallway with them.
It was time for answers, and she could think of no better way to get them.
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