Welcome, or welcome back as the case may be. If you are just joining us, you may want to start by clicking here. This is a critical chapter so having that background will be helpful. Today’s post consists of only Chapter 7 due to its length. To ease reading, we have placed bookmarks for Part 2, and Part 3 so that you don’t lose your place if you can’t get to it all in one sitting.

Chapter 7

Some four furlongs to the South and West of the home tree was a large earthen depression said to have been formed when giant beings roamed the planet long before the Nawa’ Diyo came into being. Officially, it was called the Dehnítaëh, which, loosely translated, meant “let us talk.” The most ancient ones knew it as Deyóhso:t, or Standing Mouth. The natural curves and shape of the depression was a perfect place for the council to gather as its inherited acoustics meant everyone had a chance to be heard, no matter how small in size one might be. Here, more than 12,000 representative Nawa ’Diyo would gather to resolve questions and matters that pertained to the greater magical community. 

Anyone could petition to become part of the council provided they could prove that they represented an otherwise unvoiced group of magic souls. In theory, there was no minimum size limit, but the council had not seen fit at any time to offer admission to a group smaller than 100 magicians. Those smaller groups often formed coalitions to ensure that their shared grievances were heard.

Because of the significant size of the full council and the strain their meeting put on the home tree community, full assemblies were limited to those occasions where a matter stood to directly affect the entire population of magic souls. In the early days, before humans, and especially in the days before humans learned to fashion and use weapons against each other, the council tended to meet less often. Such meetings were strained as not all humans interacted with Nawa’ Diyo in the same way. Arguments would last for days with little to no consensus being reached on most matters. Some saw the humans as like kind, only bigger. Others considered them harmful and a threat tot he magical way of life. The majority, however, had considered them largely insignificant and assumed, due to the relatively small number of humans and their comparatively short life spans, that they would die out soon enough and, thus were not deserving of any attention in the way magical souls behaved to and around them. 

During the period leading up to the great wars of what humans refer to, perhaps appropriately, as the dark ages, the council decided it was better to let regional committees address situations pertaining and limited to geographic regions. As such, few of the Nawa’ Diyo in North America knew about the terrors of the many European wars. Few in Europe knew the severity and barbarity of the tribal wars in Africa, and almost no one spoke of the Asian wars as so many magic souls had not survived those struggles. Island souls had their own tales to tell, as did those of the seas and of the air. Each was overseen and addressed by the appropriate committees who did their best to provide wisdom in their judgment and dealings. They had not always been successful.

The last great council meeting had been during the human year 1941. By that point, magic souls were largely invisible across the globe as the human wars were so atrocious and their weapon experiments so frightening that none dared leave the protection of the sacred magical places. The threat of the human achieving atomic power was a threat that the magical community could not ignore. The council risked meeting, knowing that the presence of such a magical force was likely to attract attention. Fortunately, despite interest from various human sources, there were enough spells cast to prevent the council from being discovered. There, for the first time, they had decided to interfere directly with human activities regarding the development of atomic power. While they were successful in keeping the weapon out of the hands of the German humans, the Americans had prevailed. The two bombs dropped on Japan had killed over 14 million magical souls, completely wiping out three different species. 

After that, Queen Apa’ii had vowed to never again let any human government develop the power to threaten them in such a way. A program to sabotage nuclear power plants had proven successful and none of the human governments yet realized that none of their siloed nuclear weapons were capable of working. All had been disabled by magical interference.

Now, as the council prepared to once again take up a human threat against magic souls, councilors had arrived with a palpable resolve to not allow humans to progress in any way that might continue to threaten the existence of any magical species no matter how small. There would be no tolerance for any further encroachment. Action would be deliberate and firm.

Queen Apa’ii watched from atop the home tree, her countenance sending out a signal that it was time for the Dehnítaëh to commence. The valley and sides of the Deyóhso:t sparkled in the sunlight as it filled with magical beings of every kind and from every region. The smallest of them sat toward the front with councilors growing in size, some the height of trees taking their place along the edge. There were no words spoken among them as the seriousness of the moment enforced a solemnity no magical soul would consider violating.

When every seat was full and the valley sparkled in the sunlight as though it were filled with diamonds, Apa’ii glided down from the home tree in all her brightness, taking her seat at the head of the Dehnítaëh. She grew to her full size, larger than the home tree, more massive than the surrounding mountains, her voice thundering as she spoke, “I hereby call this meeting of the Dehnítaëh to order. May all herein find justice, fairness, and peace.”

Then, together they stood and began to sing.

We who stand inside the mist
Born of earth’s great magic tryst;
Keepers of all things that live,
Guardians of a world active

This our bond thru magic be,
This our oath eternally;
May we evermore pursue
Wisdom from the gods’ own view.

Guard forever,
Protect them all;
Wisdom prevail
With no bewail.

We who stand upon this place
Take our pledge to not disgrace
Faith bestowed by others, who
Bear the soul of what we do.

This our bond thru magic be
This our oath eternally;
Wisdom shin on us your light,
Guide our speech t’ ward all that’s right.

Guard forever,
Let none e’ er fall
Into the doom
Of foolish gloom.

We who stand within the breach,
May our words inspire and teach
Those who feed at wisdom’s trough;
May our words be not cast off.

This our bond thru magic be
This our oath eternally;
Justice, fairness be to all,
Mercy, blessing be our call.

Guard forever
Where wisdom stands,
Our lives, our souls,
Not part, but whole.

Guard forever
These souls that we
Protect and save,
This earn’st conclave.

They sang the ancient hymn each in their native tongue, the sound blending as a great chorus, unlike anything human ears have ever heard. Each voice in perfect tone with individual timbre coloring the harmonies like a massive organ in an outdoor cathedral. Around them, all of nature stopped and listened. As the music floated into the home tree communities, magical souls stopped what they were doing as the delicately crafted waves of sound filled them with hope and peace. There were many wonderful songs written and sung by magical souls, but this one, its rhyme and meter simple, its melody and rhythm without complication, was most beloved and instilled pride and unity among even the most disagreeable.

The members of the council smiled as they listened to the echo of their voices playing among the mountains. Only when the last strains melted away did the council sit down in unison. Anxiously, they waited for the Queen to speak.

“My dearest friends and councilors, as much as I would dearly love to welcome you here with joy, I fear we once again find ourselves forced to deal with a menace perpetrated by the human race that threatens our mutual lives and well-being. As most of you know by now, one of our younger scouts who had transmuted to a bird form was kidnapped and removed from the forest along with a great number of birds of varying species. Our best intelligence on the matter is that they were taken to a human lab in the city, fitted with radio bands for tracking purposes, then crated and flow to another like facility in the West, to be released and their migratory habits studied. As cruel as such a displacement is, that alone is not sufficient reason for us to gather.”

Apa’ii paused, looking over the council spread out below her. She had not yet told them anything that hadn’t become known through the various neural networks. What would come next would shatter this temporary peace. She smiled assuringly as she continued.

“Our first hope was that perhaps this kidnapping had been an error, that there was no ill intent. Then, earlier this morning, thanks to the efforts of our family beyond the great plains, our scout returned. So you will not question the veracity of his testimony, I will allow you to hear the words from our scout himself. I introduce to you, great council, Puckwudjinee, an aviary scout of the home tree division.”

Puckwudginee stepped cautiously out from behind the queen. Appearing in his natural form, he was considerably taller than a sparrow, yet he felt smaller as he looked out across the vast council. He had never seen such a wide variety of Nawa’ Diyo in his life. His feathered arms shivered with excitement. 

Likewise, Puckwudjinee represented one of the more recent blendings of magical souls that many of the councilors had not seen before this moment. While his arms were feathers like the wings of a bird, his legs were long and stick-like as a mantis while his head and torso hinted at an elvish influence with a bit of sprite thrown in for fun. As he stepped toward the center of the queen’s light, murmurs of wonder at this new young form scattered across the gathering.

Two words were enough to strike fear into the whole assembly. “They know,” Puckwudjinee said. His voice wasn’t loud nor was his tone forceful, but the councilors responded with such panic that Apa’ii felt the need to blow a calming breeze over the unsettled crowd. “I wasn’t sure at first,” he continued. “I was convinced that my capture had been a mistake, but I was wrong. Only after my friends from the West, who I thank profusely for facilitating my escape, only as they snipped the radio band from my leg did we become aware of the humans’ true motives. They know we are here. They know there are many of us, and they want to capture us for scientific study as they do our animal friends.”

This was enough to put the complete council in an uproar. Everyone was aware of how little regard humans had for animal life. Fear of being captured and dismantled while still alive became an immediate threat. Apa’ii waited, letting their emotion run long enough to find voice then helped them return to calm. “Perhaps,” she said softly, “we might be helped to know how they knew to set the trap for you.”

As murmurs continued across the crowd, Puckwidjinee took in a deep breath, fullying knowing the weight of his words. “They’ve caught our transitions on their cameras,” he said carefully. “Specifically, they’ve caught us coming out of invisibility and transmuting into animal form. They have these small cameras all around the world, watching for us. They’re in trees, mountains, underwater, and even positioned to watch the sky. They observe these cameras through the technology network they call the internet. That was how they knew where to set the trap that captured me. They had hoped that by banding me like a bird that they might be able to track me back to the home tree.”

“They know of the home tree!” declared a frightened voice from the crowd, starting off another wave of murmurs.

Puckwudjinee raised his hands to ask for quiet. “They do not know of the home tree specifically. They do know there are places their cameras can’t see and have correctly assumed that we gather in those places. Yet, at the same time, they are wholly unaware of how prevalent our presence is in their own world. I was aided by a group of pixiemandalons that live in the eaves and tresses of their own laboratory! They have no clue that there is magic that close to them every day. They think we are mere leftovers from the human tales of many seasons past. They’ve no idea we flourish and are strong, nor that we outnumber them to such a dramatic extent. They know we exist and are real, yes, but they are still largely ignorant of who and what we are.”

“And that ignorance is what makes them dangerous,” shouted a voice from near the center of the council. Bogmenak stood and the queen provided a light for him to be noticed. “We have watched before and seen what happens when humans are driven by their insatiable curiosity. They are worse than cats at upsetting the balance of nature and causing greater problems in their alleged search for answers. Once they make an assumption, intelligent or not, they do not thoroughly think through the consequences of those assumptions, the potential for disaster as they disturb world of which they are not a part. Are we to stand here once again and remain, pacifists, as their curiosity dismantled everything about who and what we are, ruining our way of life? I say no! I say we stop this intrusion now!”

Cheers went up from a portion of the council seated most closely to Bogmenak, but further aware the councilors, especially those who sat toward the back and along the periphery remained silent. 

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Chapter 7, Part 2

As the cheers died down, another voice was heard. “The only way to end any aggression is to refuse to commit further aggression,” said the soul. Apa’ii turned her light to recognize Shang Ti, a magician with historical ties to the ancient East but also modernized in his evolution. His core, slightly rotund but not excessively so, was formed of pure jade. Across his shoulders draped a robe composed of dragon scales that shimmered effervescently in Apa’ii’s light. The robe was known for changing colors with the seasons, or sometimes Shang Ti’s mood. It would be red in the summer, white in autumn, and black with gold trim in the winter. Since the council was meeting in Spring, the robe was a beautiful blue-green that reflected gently onto everyone around him. 

“If we are united in hate for humans, we become the slaves of that hate. If we are united in fear, we become the captives of that fear,” he said, continuing. “We have tried aggression in seasons past and it has failed us in every way. Aggression is what led us to hide behind the mist, giving up our freedom for safety that was never real. We have interacted safely with humans before and if we educate them rather than fight them I dare say we can do so again.”

Shang Ti’s words received enthusiastic applause from the council and a coveted smile of approval from Apa’ii. Bogmenak sat back down, quieted momentarily by the response.

More toward the front of the assembly, Ochuko stood to speak next. With a core born from the wood of a rare Ceylon tree, his polished ebony was largely covered in dense, coarse black hair, making him difficult to see in the shadows, or the bark of cottonwood trees, which he preferred. Despite his diminutive size, though, he possessed a powerful voice that could not be ignored. He waited until Apa’ii gave him light before speaking.

“Those of you who live within the mist have become soft from its protection,” he said. “Many of us, you forget, live every day in full view of the humans. We do not feel the need nor do we have the desire to employ invisibility spells. While we might take advantage of transmutation, we do so for our own convenience, not that of humans. You heard from the scout himself that the pixiemandalons that saved him have been living right around his captors and they had no awareness at all. Humans still think magic is a myth. Even the young ones who are more likely to spot us than are their elder counterparts, think they have created us from their own imagination. They do not suspect at all that we are real, corporate beings who reside in such great number.

“While I do not feel we can allow the scout’s kidnapping to go without response, neither do I see any benefit in that response being an aggressive one. Perhaps, rather than continue to hide in fear, we would do better to make our presence more readily known to demonstrate to the humans our relevance, our worth, and to no small extent, our number.”

Applause had started in response to Ochuko’s speech but was quickly dampened when Kuvani, a buxom Yakshini of some renown stood to speak. Kuvani’s height alone was enough to demand attention, but her light brown core formed from the wood of an Ashoka tree and long-flowing black hair that was in constant movement around her gave her a sense of superiority that many Nawa’ Diyo found mesmerizing and attractive. Apa’ii gave her light and her voice sounded like a song as she spoke.

“Do we forget all that we control?” she asked. “The air and the ground are ours. The seas and the fire lie under our control. We gave those and many other gifts to humans many thousands of seasons ago because we found them in need of favor. At no time, however, have we relinquished control, and perhaps it is worth consideration, dear council, that it is in our use of those resources that we might guide the humans intent on our discovery. We would only be returning to them the knowledge their ancestors took for granted. Perhaps now, we might use that knowledge to guide their behavior in a way more beneficial to both the planet and our own existence. They can be quite supplicant when given the proper motivation.”

Without giving the council a chance to respond, Gui, the leader of the Mogwai, jumped to his feet, his almost translucent form shimmering in the meager sunlight, giving him an eerie ghost-like presence that had no real shape or form. Angrily, he screamed, “No! There can be no placation of the human scourge if we are to survive! Better for us it would have been had they all been squashed in the mud from which they first emerged. They have proven time and again that they are not to be trusted and with this most recent incursion they demonstrate their intent to not merely find us but eliminate us from existence. We dare not tolerate their vile intentions. If, as the pretty one states, we control all things, then perhaps we would do well to use them so that nature itself is seen to turn on them and squash the very life from their fragile and disgusting bodies. Any talk of peace or favor toward humans is nothing but nonsense.”

Bogmenak and his allies applauded heartily for a moment but the complete silence from the rest of the council caused it to sound hollow and the gesture was short-lived. Apa’ii took advantage of the moment and nodded at Fleau who smiled and stood, looking like an angel as she shimmered in the sunlight. Even without the aid of Apa’ii’s spotlight, she had everyone’s attention.

“My dear friends,” Fleau began, “If we are to respond to this dreadful situation, we must first address a more serious matter I know you noticed, if nowhere else, on your way to this assembly. The magic is retreating along the lines of places we have used to hide ourselves. That our invisibility has been compromised is not a matter so easily laid at the feet of humans. The earth’s poles are once again shifting. We have experienced this before with little discomfort. This time, however, the magnetic waves spreading across both land and sea are changing as well. 

“Our magic and the ease with which we use it is intrinsically tied to earth’s magnetic fields. The changes we are seeing, though small and limited at the moment, are only going to grow and there may be little we can do about it. If we pick any kind of fight with the humans, if we encourage interaction with them even in a friendly manner, we may not only find ourselves exposed but helpless without the use of magic when we need it. We stand the risk of putting ourselves and all of our existence in danger if we don’t look first to protect the magic from which we are all created.”

Murmurs again spread across the Deyóhso:t. “Alarmist!” screamed a lone voice. “We’re doomed!” yelled another. Panic was rising quickly, especially among those smaller souls for whom invisibility and transmutation were critical to their survival.

Apa’ii watched with careful interest. She had learned over the millennia of seasons to not let momentary spasms of panic among the council give cause for concern. If anything, panic was the most frequent response to any issue. Younger souls, those who had not seen the ancient wars, were especially given to these reactions. The Queen knew that the discussions between councilors would calm to a more reasonable response quickly enough. Cutting their conversations too short only added to their combined anxiety.

As Apa’ii watched over the Dehnítaëh, she became aware of a small soul who had moved quite close in an attempt to get the Queen’s attention. She looked down and saw Amoo Omala, a preciously small yet beautiful peri, desperately flapping her wings and waving her arms. Apa’ii motioned the little one closer to hear what she might have to say.

“Your Majesty, our clan has experienced and studied these changes for several seasons. They started small but are growing stronger. We believe we may have found both a way to track this anomaly as well as an explanation for its cause. This is rather technical and detailed, though. Do you think I should address the whole Dehnítaëh or is it a matter best left to conversations among those who can understand our studies?” Amoo asked.

Apa’ii considered the question with some trepidation. Quickly discerning that Amoo’s research was valid, she knew that not every Nawa’ Diyo shared the same capacity for understanding the sciences and matters involving mathematics. While the peris had long excelled at such studies, others were challenged to understand how the mixture of two inert chemicals could produce a dramatically devastating result. Those who could not easily understand inevitably responded negatively to such matters, creating division among the council. Still, there was no denying that Amoo’s research was pertinent to the conversation.

“Go ahead,” the Queen said. “I’ll give you all the light you need.”

Knowing she could not be seen at ground level, Amoo flew to a plane slightly above the rim of the Deyóhso:t, Apa’ii’s light shining on her in a way that caused the peri to glow.

“My dear friends,” Amoo started, her tiny voice magnified to fill the entire space. “This threat to our magic is not as new as it may seem and the same thing that seems to be causing the threat to our magic is also what threatens our planet. My clan has studied for several seasons the archaeomagnetic spikes or jerks that have been occurring around the world. They have steadily grown in size and frequency over the past 200 seasons and particularly within the last 40. We have documented these changes and aberrations all across the magnetic field and find that their occurrence and severity aligns with the changing patterns of weather and, most specifically, the rise in rates of carbon dioxide.

“The challenge for us may not be so much that our magic is completely disappearing but that it is increasingly unreliable as we never know when or where these archaeomagnetic spikes are going to occur. Their relation to the movement of the magnetic poles is one of amplitude rather than frequency. They will only get stronger and happen more often as the carbon dioxide rises, throwing off the realignment of the poles.”

Amoo paused and the council sat in stunned silence as they tried to comprehend what they had been told. While every magic soul understood that there was a relationship between magnetism and magic, most had never bothered with the details of how or why. Amoo looked back at Apa’ii, uncertain whether to continue. As the Queen smiled and nodded her encouragement, Amoo felt a sudden rush of confidence fill her, a gift from Apa’ii. She turned back to face the council as she spoke.

“I know this all seems very technical and difficult to understand, but I ask you to consider the times over the past few seasons when you might have attempted to use a spell, and either it didn’t work the way you expected or perhaps it didn’t work at all. Yet, in a different place at a different time, the same spell worked without any issue. This is the direct effect of the archaeomagnetic spikes. 

“One never knows when the magnetic force might suddenly shift, making our magic in that place unusable, such as what has happened in the perimeter around this sacred space. We cannot use invisibility in that area because of a growing variation in the magnetic wave that creates our border. As it grows, more of our magic will become useless. Soon, our ability to transmute will be affected, then our defense spells, our healing spells, and others that require intense levels of magic will randomly stop working within that space.

“The speed at which these spikes increase is relative to how much of the planet’s surface is affected by increases in carbon dioxide and the earth’s rising temperature. Already, our ocean friends have told us of their pain in not being able to stop the salinization of their waters. What we are experiencing on land is the same thing in a different form. We can no longer trust with assurance that our magic is going to work, especially outside the sacred space.”

There were plenty of suspicions on both sides, but the seriousness of the current situation required at least an effort toward cooperation. As she began to speak, her voice low and powerful like the breaking of waves, the ground beneath her shook, causing those around her to move further away.

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Chapter 7, part 3

Across the Deyóhso:t, Dasheng Sen, the Hantu Air representative, stood to speak. She was the physical antithesis of Amoo, standing tall at the back of the Deyóhso:t. Without Apa’ii’s light shining on her, she would have seemed nothing more than a shadow. As she stood, those near here recoiled from the dank smell of old saltwater mixed with deep ocean mud. In her natural form, she seemed as though the darkest bottom of the deepest ocean had come to life. She looked out across the waves of beautiful and glittering magicians, wondering if they would consider what she had to say. She looked at Apa’ii whose own expression had responded to the water queen with seriousness. While this was not their first meeting, the two had never bothered to become acquainted, leaving their rare communication to diplomatic pouches delivered by third parties unrelated to either realm.

“Precious Nawa’ Diyo, the problems we face are dire and I thank your gracious Queen Apa’ii for including the magic souls of the waters in this discussion.

“We have fought long against the humans from the moment they crafted their boats to hunt and exploit those that live within our boundaries. They have polluted our streams, dammed and re-routed our rivers, and treated our lakes and oceans as their personal dumping grounds. In return, we have sunk their boats, turned our largest inhabitants against them, thwarted their travel, and left them with vast deserts incapable of growing food. We send massive waves to wipe them from the islands and storms to punish them for destroying our coasts. They have never been our friends and we are not inclined to change our minds in that regard.”

Bogmenak and those near him responded with cheers and applause to have what seemed to be a great ally. Dasheng Sen growled in response, however, frustrated by the interruption. As their applause died, she continued.

“Our waters have seen many changes as humans became industrialized. Our reefs in many places are barely alive. Our ice is melting and our magic is being affected. As your little one has said, dramatic increases in carbon dioxide are changing the magnetic fields in ways we have never experienced before. We have lost many of our smallest magic souls in just the past 40 seasons. Powers among the Mer and the Sirens are weak and cause them to stay deep to avoid detection.

“As we Hantu Air have fought long against the humans with little benefit, I am of the opinion that only a concerted and cooperative effort on our part here can save all of us from extinction. If that means the destruction of the human species, then so be it.”

A great gust of wind interrupted Dasheng Sen, forcing her to take her seat and sent all but the largest Nawa’ Diyo sprawling across the ground, the smallest clinging to blades of grass to avoid being blown away. Apa’ii knew immediately who was responsible and roared in response, “You will not disturb the members of this gathering or else you will leave, Belinda! You are a guest here and must conduct yourself accordingly!”

The wind quickly died down and as the now disheveled members of the Dehnítaëh reassembled themselves, Belinda took a clouded form of a familiar fay, though larger and still covering the whole Deyóhso:t. Her gray, angry face was parallel with Apa’ii’s as she spoke in ferocious voice.

“You all so easily forget we are here. How else am I to get your attention? I apologize for those I might have ruffled but I have had quite enough of your contribution to increased heat in this valley. You talk of danger and peril to the existence of magic yet when was the last time the Nawa’ Diyo did anything to actually stop the humans? You could not even keep them from developing nuclear power. You’ve been no help in fighting against their destruction of air and water and have allowed them to destroy your own land! You use our shared resources for your little tricks and stunts, but you avoid humans and hide behind your mist. Only now, as we have a complete loss of our powers and possibly our lives do you finally step up and call a council meeting and do what? Talk. That’s all I’ve heard. Noise!”

“You have no right to come into our gathering and belittle us like that!” Apai’ii responded in a massive voice matching that of Sylphid queen. “You’re always going off in some huff over one thing or another without thinking about who you might hurt in the process. How many of our communities have you destroyed with your storms, giving us no warning of any kind? How many times have we asked for your help and gotten no reply from you at all? You don’t dare come in here and make such vile charges against us!”

Belinda drew back and responded with an even greater rush of wind and lightning than before, clearing the center of the Deyóhso:t of its members, pushing all of them back toward the edges. Apa’ii responded with a blast of her own magic, scattering Belinda and all her clouds to the furthest edges of the horizon. As much as the Sylphid queen tried to break the barrier, she could not.

“When you decide to address us in a more civil manner, you are welcome to return. Until then, you may stay up there and watch quietly,” Apa’ii said, her voice sterner than any of the Dehnítaëh could remember hearing from her before.

Slowly, the council reassembled itself, re-adjusting crumpled wings and untangling body parts as they each returned carefully to their seats. Members whispered carefully to each other, none feeling confident enough to speak boldly after the queens had demonstrated such awesome power.

Apa’ii waited patiently, knowing that her magic was strong enough to hold off both Belinda and Dasheng Sen if necessary, though she didn’t consider the latter an immediate threat. She watched as the council reset themselves and was aware of the fear, concern, and frustration they were feeling. As they began to calm down, she spoke in a more gentle and calming voice.

“As difficult as it is to hear, Belinda’s criticism of us and of me is not invalid. We have deliberately not been aggressive in our response to the destruction of the earth at the hands of the humans. That we must now take stronger action than ever before needs little debate. We must remain open, however, to the possibility that the earth birthed them for a reason. As much as they are part dirt, they are also part water and part air. I do not particularly like them nor trust them, but if we eliminate them, the earth herself may wake up from her slumber and respond with something more vile.

“There is a balance we must maintain between all the forces of nature. We who possess and are composed of magic are not omnipotent in what we do. We are still held accountable for both our actions and our inaction. We must work together or we risk the real possibility that we all may perish.”

She paused for a moment, sensing at least compliance if not agreement from both Belinda and Dasheng Sen. Smiling, she said, “Many of you have feelings you have not yet voiced. Is there anyone else who would like to address the full assembly?”

The Deyóhso:t was quiet for a moment. Council members looked anxiously at each other, still worried that anything they said might incur the wrath of one of the queens. Finally, with a more somber and recalcitrant tone than he’d had the night before, Arviss stood, his hands on his swords, his head bowed in respect as he waited for Apa’ii to recognize him. Only when the spotlight illuminated his presence did he begin to speak.

“Your majesty, those of us who, like yourself, remember past times when we was, each in our way, somethin’ less than hospitable t’wards humans, know that they respond horribly. If we are gonna do somethin’, I think it right and proper that we protect our own in the process. I don’ trust ‘em, your majesty, an’ I don’ think many others do, either. They know we’re here. If’n we’re gonna start this war, put me on the fron’ lines but keep my brothers an’ my kin safe.”

There were nods and murmurs of agreement around the council. Apa’ii smiled and responded, “You are wiser than you are given credit, dear Arviss. You are correct. For all the damage we might do, we cannot endanger innocent lives in the process.”

The Queen relaxed the protective bubble holding back Belinda and increased her own countenance so that the entire valley was bathed in warm light. “We have heard the warnings and are sufficiently aware of the dangers before us. I dismiss you now to meet as your committees and submit your ideas and concepts for how we might proceed. Belinda and Dasheng Sen are cordially invited to join me at the home tree for further discussion of how we might work together. We shall return tomorrow with a plan of direction.”

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