Justine. Kianga. A Meeting. A Scheme. (Prompt Rum Raisin 9. leader)
|She would have liked the council’s chambers, if the council members hadn’t been there.
It wasn’t a room, really. It was a tiny fold in the universe, a wrinkle they hid in to keep from being brushed off the edge of the world. It was a bright white stretch of sand under a flawlessly blue sky, stretching out seemingly to infinity. Maybe it did. It would certainly go a long way to explaining those stories of people summoned before the council never returning. Maybe they just went for a walk and never found their way back.
Justine was standing on the dais in the center of that sandy expanse in a white tank top, a blue bathrobe, and pajama pants with little cartoon men on them. She had been expecting that.
Clearly, the Council hadn’t been.
“Master Bloodwood? Are you- Are you quite alright?” asked the rotund man in the red robes. Justine nodded.
“Oh, I’m fine, Councilor. I wasn’t quite expecting to hear from you lot, is all. What’s going on?” High Councilor Kianga, the black woman who had held the most junior seat those years ago when Dirk had died, stepped forward. It wasn’t necessary, she was head and shoulders taller then her companions.
“Master Justine Bloodwood, do you know me?”
“Excellent well, you are a fish monger.” Justine smiled toothily at her, and Kianga shook her head.
“I will overlook your innate tendency towards tomfoolery- clearly we have dragged you away from pressing business. But ours, too, is pressing. There is no love lost for us in your heart, and well we know it. But surely you are aware that we govern the rest of the world, and that we perform a vital function in that regard!”
“Yeah, yeah. You’re doing a great job. I haven’t tripped over a dead body on my front porch in over a week!”
“Do not press me, Bloodwood. You are not entirely beyond the scope of this ruling body.”
“Look. I didn’t come here to fight,” Justine sighed. “Will you just tell me what you want so we can all get on with our respective days?”
“Very well. Are you familiar with the Le Roi family?” Justine snorted.
“You could say that. Why?” Kianga drummed her fingers against her thigh.
“You are not on good terms with their patriarch?”
“I stabbed his son,” Justine pointed out patiently.
“You seem to stab a lot of people,” remarked the man in the blue robes. Justine’s knuckles went white around the hilt of her dagger.
“Perhaps if they didn’t try to stab me so much, Councilor, the record wouldn’t be as... impressive as it is. But they do. And it is. Now come on, enough backing around the issue. What do you want me to do? Or not do? Pick one, give me the details, and we can hash it out so I can go home and have my Sunday in peace.”
“You do not show this council the respect it deserves!” The man in the blue robes fumed.
“I’m giving it exactly as much respect as it deserves. And if you think I’m going over the line, you can take it up with Kianga over there, and let her explain things a little more plainly. I noticed that that test has been modified since you took power, Councilor.” Justine towered over them on the dais, a titan of frustration.
“Stop arguing with her, blast you all!” Kianga sighed, and took off her circlet. “Look, Justine. It’s been a long, long time since then. There’s been an ocean of water under that bridge. Now we need your help. We can’t make you give it to us. We have no reason to think that you’ll give it because you want to save our skins. You’ve made it very clear that you’d be fine with our skins getting spread out in front of someone’s fireplace somewhere. But please, Justine! Think of the good we do manage to do! Finding Masters for new talents, keeping the violence to a minimum-“
“Minimum? This is minimum? Tobias got crucified on my front lawn! How is ‘crucified’ minimum?”
“Justine, listen to me! Please! If no one stops what is coming, the entire world is at stake! You know the Le Roi and the Nicoletti have no real interest in keeping our secret from mundanes! What happens then? Witch hunters driving us even farther into hiding? No!” Justine watched her as she tried to compose herself. Kianga was a spineless, ineffectual bureaucrat. But she was very, very worried. Justine wished she could cast a truth geis, but they would surely see it as an attack, and as strong as she was the council all together could take her. She dropped down onto the dais, swinging her legs over the side.
“Alright, Kianga. Gimme the skinny. What happened?”
“There is treason in our ranks. The Le Roi and the Nicoletti have both dispatched assassins to kill the Keepers.”
“All that power, and those shmucks go after the Keepers? Why not go directly for you?”
“I am sure that is their eventual goal,” Kianga said.
“Joyous. What do you want me to do about it?”
"Stop it.” Justine blinked slowly.
“That’s it? ‘Stop it’? No elaborate instructions, no specific directions, nothing that could-“ She chuckled. “Nothing incriminating. If they take me and scour my memories, you don’t want them to find anything in my head that could give them real grounds to turn the general public away from you.” Justine raked her fingers through her hair.
“I’ll look into it. I’m not making any promises, though. You make too much trouble for me to be making promises. If I promised you the sun would rise tomorrow, it would explode just to prove me wrong.” Justine hopped to her feet on the dais. Alright. You guys wanna send me back now?”
“Will you get to work on this issue immediately?”
“No.” They glared at her. “What? My Apprentice is hiding under the bed. I think that takes some small precedence over your problems.”
“A young boy is more important to you than the stability of the universe?”
“Let’s just say,” Justine said mildly, “That I doubt you guys are really doing that much work to keep the Earth from spontaneously combusting. Ahight?” Kianga glared, and with a wave of her hand sent Justine back to her house. The air sucked in to the place she had abandoned on the dais, and the sand drifted against the stone pillar more like dandruff than snow.
“Well?” Kianga asked. The councilors turned briefly inward, walling out their most senior member.
“I think it will work,” said the woman in the white robes. “If the other things are true.”
“The remarks in her file about her adherence to duty, and honor, and other such noble, nonsensical ideals. If those estimations are correct, than your plan will certainly be very effective.”
“If,” Kianga whispered to the desert winds. “If. So small a word. So big a consequence.” She stood there for a long time after the others had departed, watching the horizon.
Chanting ‘if’ into the wind.