Taver reluctantly concedes we won’t travel any farther today, and has camp set up while I call a conclave of the village. I take my seat on the rock wall favored by Nalor, and wait for them to come to me. They collectively caused this problem and they requested—demanded—I fix it, they can do the walking.
While we are waiting, I talk to the older women; I’m curious about how they convinced Alvl he had a dream that he clearly did not have.
“It was easy,” the youngest of the three tells me. “I woke him in the middle of the night, (I’m his wife) and told him he was having a nightmare and talking in his sleep. By the time I finished telling he what he was saying in his sleep, he believed.
“I am very tired,” she adds, “Of being told my understanding is limited because I am not a man.” One of the men with Alvl comes over, probably to see what we are talking about, so the women become very silent and move off. I stare at him until he leaves too.
Once the full village is gathered, I climb on top of the wall, holding the hand Alan reaches up to me for stability. Totally unnecessary, but I like holding his hand.
I wrap Princess/Wielder around me like a cloak and give them the answer none of them are going to like. “Hear this Royal Fiat, decreed by Adava, Princess of Abalem,” I begin by using the ancient formula, “In order to be headman of a village, master of a guild, mayor of a town, on any other elected post in the realm, the post holder must be alive.”
I step down, and say no more. This is Alan’s cue.
“I have recently been given an abandoned village as location for certain experiments I wish to make in blacksmithing.” Alan is almost telling the truth. “I understand that some of you feel you have inadequate say in your life in this village. Any of you who wish to take up residence in my village may do so.”
“And,” Taver adds, having agreed only after some prodding from me, “Those of you who wish to accept Mage Alan’s offer may travel with us to Misthold.”
I just barely keep surprise off my face. ‘Mage?’ I don’t dare look at Alan, I might start giggling.
We try to walk off, leaving the village to their discussion, but the three women surround Alan with questions. I won’t abandon Alan, but Taver has no problem abandoning me, well, me and my guards.
“Yes, I am perfectly willing to give houses to lone women, and I don’t care who votes, or runs the village, as long as no one expects me to. My time will be spent blacksmithing.”
The three women look at me speculatively for a moment, then move toward their village at a fast walk.
The men try blustering at Taver without being able to get him to notice them, then come in a pack toward me.
“The council determines what is voted on, it is in our charter,” Alvl starts lecturing me, but adds a weak “Princess” when Bevin glares at him.
“In this village,” I agree. “But no one is bound to this village. As you told me, you are free men. And free women.” Alvl fusses and fumes a bit more, but I walk off and my guards won’t let him follow.
Taver invites Nalor to eat with us, claiming he wants to keep an eye on the village, but actually relieving Nalor of the need to offer hospitality to a troop that is at least three times the number of people in his manor.
I leave the two of them talking to Alan about the exploding whatevers he is going to make. They all three seem very pleased with the thought of blowing things up.
The priests help me compose a suitable preamble to my Fiat, something that sounds much better than ‘some idiots wanted a ghost mayor’. Of course, everyone reading it will draw that conclusion, which is fine with me, just as long as my parents can approved the language. They carefully write out three copies for me, one for the council, one for Nalor, and one to take home to father, probably for his amusement before he puts it in the royal archives.
There are still lights in the village when the rest of us go to sleep.
By the time we finish breakfast and are getting ready to break camp, there are dozens of women and children, and their hastily packed belongings, sitting in an orderly line ready to go with us. Their not so orderly men are almost equally divided between those who are yelling at the council members and those who are either pleading or demanding that their women come home.
I almost intervene when one of the younger men tries to choke Alvl, but two other villagers pull him off, so Taver and I pretend not to notice, instead, Taver tells the men driving the carts carrying what is left of our provisions to redistribute them and those on the pack horses so there will be two empty carts for the women.
This causes an increase in noise from the villagers, voices blending into one almost solid sound.
“Quiet, quiet,” Alvl surprises me by succeeding in getting his villagers attention. “We will call a vote about allowing women on the council. Now, let us all go home, and let the Princess be on her way, we have detained her long enough.”
The women start grinning at each other, thinking they have won, but I was raised at court. “When will you call this vote, Mayor?”
A moment of intense fury flicks across Alvl’s face as he turns to me. “We need to get home, and the women need to get the children settled, probably tomorrow, or perhaps the day after.”
And then this, and that, and the other, and many of the women will die of old age before the vote is called.
“The whole village is here, why not call the vote now?” Alvl has many reasons why not to call the vote, all of which he tells me in great detail, until I get tired of being patient. “Let me rephrase that, call the vote now.”
So he does, and he loses or the women win depending on how you look at it, and we unpack part of the priests’ luggage so they can record the vote, again with copies for Nalor, and the council and father.
Taver watches balefully as the villagers slowly move back to their home. I am busy talking to Nalor or doubtless I would be agreeing with him, possibly out loud. Nalor had come back well before we had finished breakfast, wanting to hear the resolution. Or maybe just wanting to enjoy the show.
Alan joins us, “This fall, after harvest, come visit and see how far I’ve gotten.” I second the invitation, despite knowing it will result in the three of them trying to explode things.