When I first wrote this chapter, I was still on the fence deciding if it would be Tessa or Orla who would be the strong outspoken one. So if there are a few anomalies where I have not changed the names and they seem in the wrong place then please understand. In the final edit they will all be corrected. I have decided that Tessa is the outspoken leader where Orla is the quieter, nurturing leader. I did have it the other way around in several chapters. In my mind I had never intended to delve so deeply into their lives that such a distinction would never need to be made.
This chapter gives the first reason for my original title of Birthing Pains. The title was designed to allude to the pain of giving birth not only to children but in this case, an entire new section of government and of freedom.
It took Tessa and her team over an hour to collect evidence, and another two to scour the warehouse where the experiments had been conducted. Back at home Michael had been safely stowed in the darkest cell inthe lowest dungeons that they could find and Rosaleen had gone straight to surgery. As for the other two detainees from the night’s excursion the nurse had been treated, sedated and kept in the infirmary under guard and the malehad been placed in a holding cell. Neither was of much immediate concern toTessa, Orla or their compatriots.
The preparations for the liberation of the Blessed had been made in their absence just as they had planned. The pictures were quickly putonto a computer and the great audience hall had been set up for a meeting. Everyone that had participated in the events of the night, including the Guardsmen met in the hall.
“You did a good job this evening, everyone. Now comes the hard part.” Tessa looked at Orla and smiled broadly. “Let’s do this.” Tessawalked over to a panel in the back wall and pressed a large yellow button. Cathedral style chimes began to ring all about the grand building. No-one could have possibly slept through the cacophony; it could have raised the dead.
When the occupants of the building began to file into the room they saw eighteen people standing on a movable balcony at the back of the hall, Tessa and Orla stood in the front surrounded equally by the rest. The Guardsmen stood behind the Blessed and the Chosen. At first when people entered they were questioning the reason for being awakened in the middle of the night, sometimes quite loudly. But something madethem lower their voices, something made them pause and show reverence or at least quiet curiosity.
All the occupants of the building had been assembled. Some Guardsmen closed the doors and took up residency in front of those doors.Captain Linder had found his way to the front of the room with a small contingent of guards and had taken up residency there. Someone shut off the bells and Tessa tapped on a stone block that was made for this purpose with around wooden gavel. It made a thunderous rap that resounded off of the walls.It had the desired effect, the room fell silent.
Into the silence Tessa spoke carefully, deliberately and clearly. “Forgive me my friends and family for pulling you so rudely from yourbeds and projects at this time of the night. Believe me when I tell you that Iwould not have done so if it were not important. And make no mistake about it,this meeting may very well be the most important meeting that you may attend in your entire life.
This evening I and the people that you see standing here with me took it upon ourselves to stand and act for all of you. This evening weinitiated a chain of events that when known by the Council of Kingdoms will herald to them our desire for independence from their oversight.
We are all aware that the Council of Kingdoms uses us as they see fit. This ordinarily would not be untoward but, we are not ordinary. We are extraordinary and should be treated as such. The Council of Kingdoms will not… no, the Council cannot treat us in the manner in which we are due, because they do not understand us. They cannot understand us because we are not like them.
For decades we have stood by and accepted the decisions of the Council because we had no other recourse. But today that changes. Today we have proof that the Council of Kingdoms wants to breed us like animals and useus as expendable weapons against our enemy.” Tessa paused for her audience to calm themselves. Her declarations had caused some stir. She motioned for the lights to dim and for the computer to start the show. The first picture to comeup was of the bed in which Rosaleen had been found. The sight of the blood and excrement stained sheets brought a gasp from the crowd.
“What you are seeing are pictures taken at the Seanain home,where we found Rosaleen Longmuir bound and gagged on this bed. But believe it or not she is not the story here; she is just another piece of the puzzle thatcame together this evening. Rosaleen was in the wrong place at the wrong time and she found herself in the path of a man who was falling off of the edge of sanity. It would be easy to blame Michael Seanain for the pain that Rosaleen has and will feel. But he was pushed to the edge and then thrown over by thisman.” A picture of Dr. Lutrova popped onto the screen. “This is Doctor Misha Lutrova and he works for the Council of Kingdoms. He spends his days trying to find the secret of making magical twins.” The eruption of shock and anger caused her to stop.
When it died down she continued. “We have found the location of his laboratory. But of course he had been warned that we were coming and heis long gone. His associate, Doctor Frank Kusnir however was captured and we will be getting every scrap of information that we can out of him.” Pictures of deformed embryos’ in jars of formaldehyde were flashing across the screen. “Weneed to take our lives and the lives of our children into our own hands. We need to make our own laws and our own rules to govern and direct us. We need to become independent of the Council of the Kingdoms!” Her voice rose near the endand the crowd before her responded enthusiastically.
“I propose that we call ourselves the Conclave.” She made the assumption that everyone agreed to break from the Kingdoms. “Conclave is a word that literally means locked room. Which is where we are now, but in ancient times it was associated with a specific group of people who would meet together in secret to make decisions that would change the course of the world in which they lived. We are a Conclave of select people, of special people. A people who were selected… chosen by Mother Earth herself and by the Gods to survive a plague that was meant to destroy us. We did not only survive… we were changed, and made better, even superior than what we once were, we were chosen and blessed.
All of us have been improved so that we could change the course of the world in which we live. Mother Earth and the Gods have conspired against the invaders that would take our home and given us the means in which to fight our enemy and to save our respective races. Each of us has a role to play, a destiny to aspire to attain. We are the Conclave; a special, selectgroup of individuals who will come together as a whole to change the world in which we live, to make it better!” Her words resounded across the room and the roar of the crowd absorbed them.
“We cannot allow this tragedy to happen again.” The screen flipped between the jars and the bed. “We cannot allow one of our own to fall to insanity or to the insane. But most of all we cannot allow anyone who is not one of us to have a say in our destiny! We must take control of our own lives or we shall perish at the hands of those who would use us to further their ownselfish designs.” Once again the room erupted in cheers.
“I do not know if the Witches of old truly had power, but I do know that they were hunted to extinction by those who had no power… this cannot be allowed to happen again!” The walls shook with the force of the cacophony that followed her statement.
“From this day forward let this group of people that have been granted power by Mother Earth and the Gods be known as the Conclave. Let us elect a Council of thirteen members that will meet together to enact laws and guide lines that will serve to protect and bring order to the Conclave. Let the members of the Council act always in the best interest of the Conclave andto avoid political entanglements let the members of the Council sit for life oruntil the Council itself unanimously votes them off.” The room roared.
“In light of these things each of you were handed a scrap of paper and a snub of pencil when you entered. On that scrap I would like all of you to write down your three best choices for Council members. The papers will be collected as you leave. The thirteen candidates with the most votes will become the Council of the Conclave. In the event of a tie we will cast votes on only those who are tied at lunch tomorrow. We have no set number of how many Humans or Sinarri that will be on the Council, you make that choice. I’m certain that whatever comes out of your choices will be the correct thing.” Everyone seemed to be waiting for more from Orla but she was done. She had stirred them into a froth knowing that they would accept whatever she proposed in the heat of their indignation and anger. Slowly the crowd lowered their heads and began scratching names on the scraps of paper. But as the guards moved to unlock the doors at the back of the room Orla stepped up to the railing.
“One last thing I think should be mentioned. Although we are not a secret society we should keep our goals and how we will work to achieve those goals to ourselves so as not to burden or diminish the value of our ungifted counterparts with things that they cannot possibly understand. In that manner we will meet in secret and make decisions that will change our world for the better. For now our biggest advantage is in their ignorance. They will learn soon enough that we have one of their men and that their operation is exposed. When they come to question us, we need to have our Council seated and the Council needs to have a plan of action ready to initiate. Please give our opposition no help. We have a small window here and in that window our gamble can win, but only if we are truly together in this endeavor.” Once again the crowd seemed like they were ready or waiting to hear more. When nothing came they seemed to agree as one that it was time to leave.
It took only a few minutes for the grand hall to all but empty out. Several hung out in the hall discussing whatever had struck themduring the meeting while most headed off in silence to their own private apartments within the gigantic building.
The balcony began to descend. “So did we do it or will they reject it?” Chelsea said wearily.
“That’s the question of the evening isn’t it?” Sophia saidjust as wearily.
“I thought, back at the start of the evening the question was are we doing the right thing, and I kept on thinking that, until I saw Rosaleen. Now I know we did the right thing. Now we need to know if it was enough to sway the rest.” Marta was still shaking inside.
“Well Rolf, are your people set? Have the extras left yet or have you set some sort of time for them to leave?” Orla started to question him before the balcony was fully on the ground.
“And when will the ballots be counted?” Chelsea added.
Rolf held up his hands as if he was fending off blows. “Slow down ladies; one at a time. First off; there are no extras anymore. Once we had the pictures on the computer all of the guards had access to them and apparently took advantage of that fact. They saw more than they bargained for, and have decided to stay… if that’s alright anyway. Not a one of them could stomach what they saw and when Miss Longmuir was taken into the infirmary after her surgery… well that sight cemented it for everyone. Not a one of my people is in any way wavering or uncertain. Oh I see that look, don’t worry nobody was gawking. It only took one person to tell a fraction of what they saw and that was all it took.” They all looked a little uncomfortable with the topic of discussion.
“So… uhh… second… the ballots will be counted in just a couple of hours. I had my guys take them down to the office where I had a spot set up for five folks to begin counting and another five to keep the tally. It shouldn’t take long.” He stopped and took a long look at the group that stoodin front of him.
“Now all of you, Blessed, Chosen and Guards, with all due respect… go to bed. And that was not a suggestion. I can see to it that all of you can be awakened for lunch.” Several of his intended audience began to balk but he would have none of it. He had his guards herd them out of the room and had them escort them to their quarters. The building was so large and there were so few occupants that even the guards had personal rooms. Their rooms weren’t as extravagant as those of the Blessed or the Chosen but they were private rooms all the same.
Blessedly quiet sleep claimed many hours from them all. They were gently awakened about an hour before the lunch bell rang. No word had yet been heard from the Council of the Kingdoms. While they had slept, both Doctor Kusnir and Michael had been questioned by the House Guard. Rolf promised a full report to the Council members once they had been named.
An hour later in the dining hall Rolf had the doors locked and called for quiet. The room fell into a kind of suspended silence while Rolftried to stand up in a chair without falling on his face. That darn hip that they had grown for him just didn’t move right, but it was better than not moving at all. He never complained. With a final burst of effort, Rolf stepped up onto the table.
“Is everyone here?” No-one said a word. “Good, John, lock the doors.” He commanded and then waited for the distinctive click of the locks engaging. “Alright, I won’t bore you with numbers. If you want to know I will have the lists posted outside of the door to our offices as soon as we’re done here. The Council of the Conclave will be the thirteen that went on yesterday’s excursion. There will be seven of the Blessed and six of the Chosen. The vote was nearly unanimous so I expect that this choice is without a doubt the bestand wisest that could be made.” Rolf was a military man not an eloquent speaker. He was done so he stepped off of the table, onto the precarious chair and was glad when his foot touched solid dining room floor.
For a moment Tessa, like the others was stunned. She really hadn’t expected to be named as a member of the Council. She had hoped of course but she had not dared to truly believe. However, now that she was named to the Council she was once again the center of attention. All eyes in the room had found her and were now waiting. She stood and was helped by someone up onto thetable that Rolf had vacated.
“I’m not sure what to say. Thank you, from all of us seems appropriate. We will not betray your trust in us.” That seemed much too short.“Meetings like this might be difficult in the next few days but rest assured that we of the Council will be working on the inevitable confrontation with the Council of the Kingdoms and we will be addressing other issues that we are aware of at this time. In lieu of meetings we will post copies of our discussions outside meeting room across from mine and Orla’s offices. If in the meantime you have questions or suggestions please drop them off at our office.”She didn’t know what else to say and she felt so exposed and awkward standing on the darn table. She turned and made a move to step down and then thought better of it. Tessa turned once again to the waiting crowd of people.
“That seemed woefully inadequate and somehow quite rude.” She began. “You have all placed the safety and security of your lives and the lives of your children in our hands and I can’t take a few moments to assure you that you have made the right choice?” The faces looking up at her seemed to look a bit frantic. She wanted them to look hopeful. “I have a vision of the future. I see a future without the Winiks and without the nightmares, but with a strong and powerful Conclave. I see a school where we teach the young not only reading, writing and arithmetic but, spells and magical knowledge. I see an organized Conclave where we not only keep logs of our own personal spells butwe share them for the good of everyone. I see a future where the Conclave is equal to the Council of the Kingdoms and charts its own course through history.
We will prevail against the Winiks and the Earth will heal just as our ancestors dreamed. In the future the Blessed, the Chosen, the Kingdoms and everyone else will all work together to bring the Earth into the universe as a strong independent world that will never fear outside attack ever again. And our descendants will look back on this day as the first day of their future.” The room erupted in cheers and on their faces Tessa could see hope. Now she could get down and get to work.
They have a long way to go. This was a good start for them.
Live well and be good to each other.