“...and we will have enough fuel to help the Sweetwaters move the equipment to Waking, but we will need to prepare for refueling costs there.”
Everyone was listening, she supposed, even if their body language said otherwise. She smiled to herself, and continued. It was late, and even Shale was disinterested. But it was the duty of the matriarch to lead by example, so Momma Rabbit paused for a moment to let the others realize their minds had been drifting. It was subtle, but as a skilled fishmonger drove their fish to the net, so she rounded up their attention once more.
Children would be children. And children indeed were the royal attendees of this summit. Lessons passed down from mother to mother in the Rabbit family always seemed to become useful in surprising ways, she mused.
The rest of the regents were gathered around the map of The Lands Bravado, listening with at least half an ear to her update on current events. It was challenging enough getting the regency of the Tribes Disparate in the same room for quorum, much less keeping their attention throughout. They would have to wait until the Summit to get the entirety of the thirteen regents in one place. For the handful she had here today, this was a necessary meeting. An army marches on its stomach, her mother always said. “The DJs needed fuel to continue playing their part in all this.” Momma Rabbit pressed now.
At the mention of this, Shale looked up. It was the one thing the Queen didn’t seem to understand, but Shale was in his element in this moment. He was the most interested in these council meetings, where strength of arms did not matter as much as strength of will. Let the Queen pursue her wars, but Shale would lead from the council chambers. Momma Rabbit smiled to herself and at him.
“We can get the RRC to fund the expedition. The Antlers have been protecting the Ox’s move south, and they can’t afford us to redirect our forces somewhere else.” she answered in response to Shale’s unspoken question. The regent of the Ox Killers glared at her mention, but stayed quiet for now.
The Texican regent put his boots up on the table and offered a different suggestion. Her kindly eyes darkened at this willful display of bad manners.
“Maybe the Conglomerate can make an offer too.” Sam said with a drawl. “The Ja Cintos have enough connections there. The Minister don’t like dealing with the Railroad any more than necessary. We’re all here for the Queen first, not the Commission.” The regent of the Ja Cinto Militia surely meant well, but Momma Rabbit sighed internally at his aggressive tone.
“Sam, you know as well as I do the contracts we’ve signed.” Momma Rabbit countered. She tsked at him and brushed his feet off the table. He sheepishly apologized, as she wiped the dirt off the map. He was a good lad, if he could only remember his manners.
“Fuck the contracts.” The Torchlight regent’s gravely voice was barely a whisper, but when they spoke, the primitive filter on their mask made it impossible to sense any real emotion. The Lascarian could be expected to provoke the fight further.
Another argument. This night was not getting any closer to being finished.
The other regents acted predictably. The Ox Killers had a grudge, and their regent banged his fist on the table in support of the Torchlight’s suggestion. The Ja Cintos would eventually back her if she could make her case, and maybe the Long Berths. The DJs of the Sweetwaters needed the work to keep the clan happy, so they would be on board when it came time for a vote.
“We trusted the sun-dwellers’ promises before. It cost us everything. Why should we continue to support them?” the Lightbearer, for someone with such a name, spent so much of his time focused on the darkness of the past. It was frustrating. She smoothed her skirts as the others chimed in. The Torchlight regent was unnerving, but they are family too, she reminded herself.
“I say just let them deal with the Firebrands on their own. We have our own issues to solve. The storm always passes.” The Long Berth captain spoke. They had their own problems with the Junkerpunks, to be sure.
“The Great Wheel will turn our way again, my friends. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow.” Words of wisdom spoke from the greasy road captain, younger than his wisdom suggested. The DJ could be counted to come to her support. Momma Rabbit smiled fondly at the Sweetwater regent. They understood the need for allies in these times. And he was always so careful to avoid leaving the coat of dust and grime, that perpetually seemed to follow him, on her nice table.
“This was the Queen’s will, long may she reign.” she reminded them. “Her vision is what brought us all together.”
“For now.” The Ox Killer regent spoke softly, but everyone heard his words.
She gasped. The Ox Killers could be so obstinate, but the challenge was clear. His eyes glared at Shale, and she could see the Torchlight leader nodding too.
“The Queen is with us eternally, and especially right now. Whether you like it or not. Long live the Queen.” she replied.
The Ox Killer smiled viciously. His teeth were filthy.
“Long. Live. The. Queen.” he said with a smirk, drawing out each syllable in a mocking, frustrating way
Momma Rabbit puffed up, and struggled to maintain her composure. She readied her best stern glare and prepared to rebuke the man.
Shale broke the tie before the argument could escalate.
“I understand your hesitation, but this helps the Tribes in the future. The Queen has seen fit to choose each of you.” He looked pointedly at the Ox Killer regent, and continued. “But it appears that I am the deciding vote.”
Shale stood up, wearily, and pointed to the map in front of them.
“The further the RRC depends on the might of the Antler tribe and all of our combined strengths of the Tribes Disparate, the more prepared we are for our eventual rise. The world is changing, and we must be prepared for that new future. Let them build their railways. Let them focus on the ruins in the Bravado camp. We have always been about our people, the common folk, and those that have been forgotten. It is through our differences we succeed, but it is through our Queen we triumph. Long may she reign.”
Prince Shale cast his gaze around the room, and each of the regents realized the truth of his words, one by one. Even the Torchlights and the Ox Killers. No challenge would be accepted now.
Mother Rabbit beamed at Shale. Another argument settled. The Tribes might fight, but they each meant well.
“Long live the queen!” The regents echoed, some more readily than others.
It was enough. United for now, their voices rang into the evening, and into a new future.
A Tribes Disparate Vignette by J. Loyd