Who will be the Overlord of Magic?
And this is the first instalment of the NanoWriMo project: Scene 1 (first draft, of course). Copyright Cage Dunn 2017.
They rounded the corner and pulled up in a puff of dust. The entrance was blocked by a fenced and funnelled entrance, and the only way in was guarded. By cats. Ruffian cats. Big, hissy, guard cats.
Cocky’s crest went up and he squawked.
“Guards!” he said. “What’re they doing here? What’s the issue with security? Why weren’t we told?” He remained in the air. “And I ain’t going in through a cat-search, thank you very much!” He shuddered at the thought of those sharp-tipped claws getting to the soft skin under his feathers.
“Come on, you two!” Roo shoved at Croc as he bounded up from behind. “The sooner this is over, the sooner we get back to the pub.”
“It’s not appropriate to have guards, let alone cats,” Croc said as she continued towards the entry. “But I’ll warn them not to touch you, bird, so come on and let’s get in there.”
Roo shook his head and stood up tall. He pounded one foot on the ground. “I’ll tell ’em where to get off if they try anything.”
“Will you just pull your head in for once? Wasn’t last night bad enough?” Cocky crested at Roo. He was the reason they were so late, on the first morning of the conference, on the first – and now, probably only – occasion that Australia hosted the International Conference of Creatures of Magic and their Representatives. He nodded at Croc, “Get us in without trouble, please Croc,” he said as he flapped past the posturing of Roo.
Roo harrumphed, but he lowered himself and followed, albeit not quietly, not gracefully, and not at all like a dignified representative of the Earth creatures of the country.
“Your passes, please,” the snooty ginger cat extended his paw to stop them. “Please read the rules carefully before entry – you! Wait until your pass is cleared!” His paw reached out to stop Roo from reaching down to his pouch.
Roo shook his head. “This is my pocket, pussy-cat. It’s where I have my pass. Like to tell me where you keep yours?”
Croc slid her tail up behind Roo and ruffled it against him. He scowled, but handed over the pass.
“And ours, if you please, Roo,” Cocky said as he maintained his position high enough to avoid the leap of Ginger, who looked as if he could go ten rounds with the Warthog Roo picked on last night.
Roo dug into his pouch and pulled out the other two passes.
“Oh, the reps from the host country?” Ginger purred. “The ones who were supposed to be seated in the front row?” He smirked. “Well, as the last – the very last – to get here, you get the aisle. And you’ll be sitting on the steps, ’cos some sort of idiot failed to provide enough seating for all the arrivals.” He sashayed to the roped off entry and opened it with a flourish. “Enjoy,” he said as he waved them in. “Idiots.”
Cocky almost squawked at him, but it only took one look into those evil yellow eyes to change his mind. Cats had become way too dangerous of late. And numerous. He looked around as he went inside the arena. There were cats at both ends of each row of seating.
Guards, armed and attentive, and not watching the proceedings. Paws at weapons, shoulders tensed and wary. Were they expecting trouble? Here? Cocky landed next to Croc and waited until she nodded before he stepped up onto her shoulder. So, Croc felt it as well.
What was going on?
Roo slid into place beside them and began digging at the sand.
“Sit down!” the guard ordered. “Proceedings are underway!”
Roo harrumphed and slid to the ground, sliding his thick tail to within a bare hair of the cat’s face. Cocky groaned. Why couldn’t the big galoot behave himself? Especially here and now, while Australia – the country with his big ugly mug on the flag – needed him to present his best face, not his bloody belligerent self.
“Roo,” Cocky sidled as close as possible to be quiet – well, quiet for a cockatoo, that is. “Get the agenda – I want to see what’s on today.”
“Quiet,” growled Croc. “Listen. This is important!”
Roo slapped his tail on the dirt.
“Shut up, Roo, or I’ll snap that bloody tail off and then see how you go in the bar-fights, bud!”
Cocky turned to the front to see what’d got under Croc’s scales.
Kraken was at the podium, speaking low, in whispers that sounded like a slow turning of the tide.
“The last Cetus was my father,” Kraken said as he swung his tentacles over the table in front of him. “I am the last Kraken. There is no other. I am one, alone and unable to hand over to my children. I am become stone, one of the un-living, ancient beyond understanding. I am done. The war between Land and Water, the distribution of gifts from Earth to his warriors, has taken its toll. Perseus took the future of not only my father, but myself. I can no longer fulfil my function on this Council.” He raised himself to full height. “I advise this Council and all the Conference representatives that I will be standing down – nay, I will be abdicating my position at the closing bell.”
A roar split the air. The other Council members – Dragon and Cat – didn’t look surprised, didn’t even look up at Kraken.
Cocky rose in the air to avoid the angry eruptions from Croc. She hadn’t known about this, of that he was certain. And from the noise and bickering in the crowd, no one who wasn’t on the Council of three knew beforehand either.
Where was that agenda? Should they have known about it?
Cocky reached into Roo’s pouch and rustled around.
“What’re you doing, Cocky?” Roo shoved Cocky off. “If you want something, ask!”
“The agenda! Get the agenda – who knew about this? Do we get to vote?” Croc turned her vicious smile to Roo, raised her lip to show teeth.
Roo dug rapidly through his pouch before finally withdrawing the notice.
Cocky reached for it, and held it before Croc as they all read it.
Item 1: Status of Incumbent Council Holders.
He looked further down. There were no other items on the agenda. Lists of activities, of discussions and speakers and other stuff. Not one single word about changes within the Council of Magical Creatures and their Representatives.
“Silence!” The roar over the crowd silenced some, but not all. All faces turned to the podium as Kraken turned away and resumed his position at the end of the table. Cat stood upon the lectern.
“We have other business to discuss. Please await the end of this session prior to,” he paused and licked his paw, “agitating for discussion.” He turned his tail to the crowd and nodded to Dragon.
Dragon rose and walked to the lectern. She patted at the microphone and sucked in a deep breath. Small flames and a not insubstantial puff of smoke rose when she raised herself to full height and extended her wings.
“Kraken has spoken as a unity of One. I am Dragon, the last of my kind, another unity of one. Dragon is now nothing more than myth and legend thanks to allies of Earth and misrepresentations of our depredations. I am the last, and as the last, I desire to withdraw my candidacy to this Council.” Another roar followed her words, but she blew a long blast of flame along the walkway, and silence reigned for a moment. “Effective at the end of the Conference.”
Cocky couldn’t believe it. Dragon? Resigning? How could that be? Why didn’t anyone know about this before the conference?
What was going on here?
Cat walked back to the podium as Dragon vacated the area. He perched and preened and waited until the crowd turned their attention back to him.
“There will be a vote, of course, because we are a democratically-elected Council. So, to business. A vote to accept the abdication of Kraken?”
It had to be a quorum. Of the ninety-three attending representatives, it required a 51% vote to pass. Cocky counted the responses. Sixty. He pulled his feathers in tight.
“So much for getting out of here early,” groaned Roo, who hadn’t voted. He leaned in close to Croc. “Wasn’t it supposed to be a formality? Like every other time? Is this for real, or is there a play on for higher taxes to get them to stay on?”
“The motion is accepted and passed,” the disembodied voice said. “The second motion: A vote to accept the resignation of Dragon. Please indicate your vote now.” Cat swung his tail in lazy motions over the lectern as the attendees responded.
Sixty votes for acceptance. Now Air and Water had no representative.
“Who can we get to replace Kraken?” moaned Croc. “Who in the world of creatures of water could demand the respect he got?”
“Respect?” Roo gasped. “He’s been avoiding his duty for millennia. And Dragon. Good riddance, I say, and bring on the new candidates.”
Croc snapped at him. Cocky glared at him.
Cat stood and indicated for silence with his tail straight up in typical semaphore.
“That is not the last of the requirements,” he began. A slight smirk lit his mouth and glowed in his green eyes. “As the representative who has held this position actively – the only active member – I not only accept the declarations of removal, I also request the members of this conference to consider this:
“Kraken and Dragon have failed in their duty for millennia-”
“See, I said that!” said Roo.
Croc smacked him with her tail as Cocky rose with a squawk to avoid the coming trouble.
“-and I have taken up the slack from their absence.” He walked the top of the lectern like a model, slinky and shiny. “I demand the right to be considered for Overall Rule of Magic, based on the Law of Singularity. Of course, according to the laws written, that can only be considered if no suitable candidates can be found for the Tests, or if the candidates fail, and therefore, leave only Earth – oh, that’s me – to undertake the burden again.
“Candidates who pass the test and are capable of representing the needs and rights of Creatures of Magic would, of course, take up the positions of Council Elders. However, if these positions are not filled, or the Tests failed, I demand the right to be considered.
“Do I need to ask for a vote?”
Absolute silence filled the arena for a few seconds that felt like hours. Cocky couldn’t even breathe, let alone squawk. His crest lifted and fell, lifted and fell. He needed to say something. He needed to stop this. How? What would it take?
It wouldn’t be fair for Earth to represent all three elements. Impossible. Although Cat had been doing it, as he said, for so long, and things were … things were-
“Right, as there has been no objection, I take it as accepted that volunteers will place their glyphs in the hat to be drawn after the break.” A short, sharp rap on the podium. “We shall reconvene in a quarter turn of the shadows.” Cat stepped down.
Kraken and Dragon remained at the table.
The crowded arena gulped as one, before a sudden eruption of disgust and anger and fear engulfed them all.
“Shit,” Cocky said to no one. “Shit. We’re done for. That’s what’s he’s been working toward all this time, isn’t it. And we didn’t see it. That bloody Cat has stuffed us.”
Croc didn’t move. Even when creatures shoved at them to get out, she remained silent as a log.
Roo shrugged and moved to the side, but didn’t go out with the crowd.
“Who we gonna vote for?” Roo asked.
“No, Roo. The question is: who is Cat going to approve for the quest? Who’s going to be stupid enough to put their hat in the ring, knowing it’s rigged? That’s the question. Who’s going to be stooge for the Cat?”
Apologies in advance for the lack of response to anything/everything during November, but I want to complete the words, then have time to do a review and edit, and have a complete novel ready by the end of the month.