"How can I settle the territory granted to me when my men are being slaughtered before they even set up camp?" the Queen petitioner demanded. She was the eighth Queen to stand in the petitioner's circle before the Council today and there were easily twenty more waiting for her to finish. So far, their demands had been identical, save for the amount of histrionics they were willing to indulge in before they allowed themselves to be escorted out of the circle. "The Council has to do something!"
"The wilderness is always dangerous, Lady," Lord Jorval said smoothly. "You were warned to take extra precautions."
"Precautions!" The Queen quivered in outrage. "You said these beasts, these so-called kindred, had a bit of magic."
"That wasn't just a bit of magic they were using. That was Craft!"
"No, no. Only the human races are Blood, and only the Blood have the power to use Craft." Lord Jorval looked soulfully at the Council members seated on either side of the large chamber. "But, perhaps, since we know so little about them, we were not fully aware of the extent of this animal magic. It may be the only way our Terreillan Brothers and Sisters will be able to secure the land granted to them is if the Kaeleeran Queens they're serving are willing to send in their own warriors to clear out these infestations."
And every Queen who sent assistance would expect a higher percentage of the profit from the conquered land, Karla thought sourly, thinking back fondly to the time when the Council had remained true to the purpose behind its founding: to act as arbitrators to prevent wars, as opposed to its current habit of trying to provoke them. The Dark Council's judgments had been respected and trusted by all the Blood races for all the years Uncle Saetan and Andulvar had served in the Council. That should have told them all something--especially since it was no longer true.
"Infestations?" The midnight voice echoed through the chamber and Karla had to fight down her smirk. The Council was about to get yet another reminder. Maybe this time they'd learn? Jaenelle strode towards the Tribunal's bench, stopping just outside the petitioner's circle, flanked by Saetan and Lucivar. Karla followed a half-step behind, Julian and Warren behind her. A ripple of murmured comments followed their entrance, growing louder still when Warren flared his red-tinted wings. Let them whisper about that and the blood that was spilled to dye his wings that color. "Those infestations you speak of, Lord Jorval, are kindred. They are Blood. And they have every right to defend themselves and their land against an invading force."
"We're not invading!" The petitioning Queen snapped. "We went in to settle the unclaimed land that was granted to us by the Dark Council."
"It's not unclaimed. It's kindred Territories!" Jaenelle snarled at the same time, Karla retorted, "Grants they had no right to issue!"
"Ladies..." Lord Jorval had to raise his voice to be heard over the muttering of Council members and petitioners. "Ladies!" When the Council and the petitioners subsided, Lord Jorval smiled at Jaenelle. "Lady Angelline, Lady DiGlacia, while it's always a pleasure to see you, I must ask that you not disrupt a Council meeting. If there's something you wish to bring before the Council, you must wait until the petitioners who have already requested an audience have been heard."
"If all the petitioners have the same complaint, I can save the Council a great deal of time," Jaenelle replied coldly. "Kindred Territories are not unclaimed land. The Blood have ruled there are thousands of years. The Blood still rule there."
"While it pains me to disagree," Jorval said gently, "there are no Blood in these 'kindred Territories.' The Council has studied this matter most diligently and has reached the conclusions that, while these animals may be thought of as 'magical cousins,' they are not Blood. One must be human to be Blood. And this Council was formed to deal with the Blood's concerns, the Blood's rights."
"Oh?" Karla asked archly. "And who did this research? And how? Who was consulted? What did they study? And was there anyone involved in this little venture who was not receiving bribes to influence what they found?" Several members of the Council shifted slightly in their seats. A few coughs echoed through the chamber. "Mmmhmm."
"And what about the centaurs?" Jaenelle asked, pressing their advantage. "What about the satyrs? Half-humans with half rights?"
No one answered.
"I see," Janelle said too softly.
"Once the Blood are established in these Territories, they will look after the kindred. Any disagreements can then be brought to the Council by the human representatives for those Territories." Karla was working very hard not to roll her eyes. At least Lord Magstrom, Third Tribune and the only reasonable member of the Council, as far as she was concerned, looked properly concerned. Was he the only one who remembered what happened the last time Jaenelle stood before the Council? How she didn't allow the sun to rise for three days? Merciful Darkness, how far up one's own ass did one have to shove their heads to be eligible for a spot on the Council these days?
"You're saying that the kindred require a human representative before they're entitled to any consideration of any rights?"
"Precisely," Jorval said, smiling.
"In that case, I am the kindred's human representative."
Karla suddenly felt as if a trap had been sprung. Lord Jorval was still smiling, still looked benign, but Karla had enough experience with the type to recognize the subtle, underlying cruelty in the man. "Unfortunately, that isn't possible," he said, unsuccessfully hiding his glee. "This Lady's claim may be under dispute--" he nodded at the petitioning Queen "--but you have no claim whatsoever. You are a private citizen and do not rule."
"I am a ruling Queen," Karla said, stepping forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jaenelle. "I will stand for the kindred in this."
"While you are...nominally...Queen of Glacia," Jorval said, glancing at Warren and sneering, "that is the extent of your rule. You don't rule these Territories. Your rights aren't being infringed upon. Should an outsider step foot into your Territory, the Dark Council would, of course, intervene, but until that occurs, you have no say here." His smile was like an oil slick in water. "Did you wish to, you could always petition the Council for some of the unclaimed land of your own."
"Bastard," she hissed over Warren's low growl.
Jorval clucked. "Such language is not welcome here. And since neither you nor yours are affected by this, you have no justifiable complaint, and so neither are you. I must ask you all to leave the Council chambers."
Karla opened her mouth to protest again, but Jaenelle touched her arm. She shook her head, eyes disturbingly blank, and turned to walk away. Karla leveled a glare at Jorval, but did likewise, followed by Julian and Warren.
"Now Lady," Jorval said with a weary smile, "let's see what we can do about your rightful petition."
[NFI, NFB, OOC enjoyed! Taken and slightly adapted from Anne Bishop's Heir to the Shadows, Chapter 15, Part 5.]
- The Island of the Dark Council, Friday Afternoon (Fandom Time)