Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty One

About an hour after Nora left, Zena was obsessively cleaning behind the stove, which was filthy, having decided that if she couldn’t use it, she would make sure it was clean. Neo was sitting by her, rambling on about his dreams of the night before. Zena had taught the Usomian practice of interpreting them, and he’d taken to it with a passion. He’d been talking for twenty minutes straight. She was pretty sure that he was making most of it up and was debating what to do about it. She clearly remembered doing the same when she was his age. When she got full of it and the dreams got a little too detailed, her father caught on and scolded her roughly. It was one of the first things that taught her how much of a traditional Usomian he was. Some of her friends (well, the children she hung around with; none of them had really kept it up as they got older) had told her how dream stories were fun times in their houses, and that their parents interpreted things just for fun.

Unlike her parents, or rather her father, from whom the whole household got their tone. From listening in bed, she knew they held fairly lively parties and such, but toward their children they were strict. Arav was lucky, all he had to do was ask to marry a girl from nice parents, she thought. Never mind that it was the person he’d, you know, have sex with. No, it was a much bigger thing for me to be interested in politics. Because why? Oh yes, I’m a girl. And if my father didn’t want to do it, I couldn’t. Because he was so perfect.

“Someone just knocked,” Neo piped up helpfully.

“Yeah, I heard it,” she muttered as someone banged on the door again. Pretty loud knocking. She meandered toward the door. Her little mind-hate on her father, who could very possibly be dead, had put her in a bad mood. She pulled the door open. “Yes?”

She was confronted by a very large group of people, all Usomians, all probably from a few levels down at least, and all angry. That’s kind of strong. Annoyed, maybe? She surveyed their faces again. Nope, definitely angry. Great.

“What do you want?” she snapped.

“A word,” the front man said with very thin respect. She recognized him. Venern, son of one of her father’s enemies. “Can you spare us that?”

“Course,” she said briskly.

“We,” he began, indicating the group numbering at least thirty, “were wondering what action the Council has made to go after the Irkas.”

Oh, shit. “We’ve made no decisions at this time. It’s a difficult situation and we’re trying to look at all the angles.”

“Can I speak frankly?”

“Must you?”

“What likelihood is there that the Council will forcibly bring them back?”

Zena found herself with the hard choice of whether to lie or not, because the answer that was truthful wasn’t the one they were looking for. I did want to be a politician…she thought as she frantically composed her answer. “Due to the lack of anything resembling an army and a desire for no violence, I doubt that we will try to ‘go after’ them. But I’m sure we will attempt negotiations.” She moved to close the door. Venern slid his foot to block it. “Can we know why?” he asked, still wearing his fake politeness.

Zena could think of many reasons, namely a) Sheen, b) a certain nighttime conversation, c) the lack of anything resembling an army, and d) why is this your problem again?  “It isn’t logistically logical.” Yeah, that about sums it up.

                “Is that really how you feel, Zena?”

How bloodthirsty do you think I am? “Yes, it is. I get the feeling it isn’t how you feel, though.”

He smiled. “We’ve just come from a group assembly. The majority was of the opposite opinion from you.”

Yes, I’m sure you’d like to go bash some heads in, wouldn’t you? “Well, that’s nice to know.”

“We also don’t think you have the authority to decide.”

Alright, that’s it. “I’m sure,” she spit out, “And I’m the one who had to balls to get this job and actually face this issue instead of getting drunk, causing riots, and beating people up. I’m sick to death of all you. You didn’t do anything after the draft, and now you whine about everything and blame it on us. If you really have a problem with the council, come to the meeting tomorrow with a formal complaint. If you just have a problem, well, suck it.” She kicked his foot out of the way, slammed the door, and slid to the floor, leaning against it.

I’m screwed, was her first thought. Watch them go burn down the Council building or something. Or no, they’ll attack the Irkas. That really wasn’t very smart. Sheen’ll be sure to say so.

                But it was satisfying.

***

Zena waited until the group was quieter and then she planned what to do. She felt that it was necessary to tell at least one of the Council in case they actually did come to protest at the meeting in the morning. The question was how to slip out of the house incognito. It probably wasn’t necessary, I don’t live in a ghetto, but she really didn’t want to get blamed for “running to the Council.” So she didn’t wear her cape. It was a bright turquoise and pretty noticeable. Her dress today happened to be a fairly dull tan.

She slipped out the door and made her way quietly out. She decided to not go through the area and instead found the small footpath leading directly to the trade. As she followed it, her loose hair bugged her, so she tied it back with a string she found on her wrist.

She found herself in the trade with really no idea where she was actually heading. She knew Jacques was probably the best in terms of power, but she hadn’t talked to him much. She had talked to Nora, but that hadn’t ended very well.

Looks like I really only have one option. She sighed and headed toward the Dirty Hills.

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