Former queen Asta Ilva sat in the conference room of Cerra’s castle, across from the new governor, Gloria Habbard. The governor was a younger woman, human, like Asta. She was probably in her early thirties, Asta assumed. Her features were smooth still, untouched by age, her eyes narrow and intense, staring at Asta.
“You’re dissatisfied?” the governor asked. Asta confirmed this with a nod. The governor leaned forward in her leather chair and rested her elbows on the wood table. “What do you have for me this time?”
“The riot earlier today was preventable,” she said. “I don’t believe it was a fault of yours. However, you’ve seen it happen, and it would be partly your fault if it happened again.”
Asta paused to let the governor speak. Habbard nodded and said, “Could I increase the number of guards?”
“Currently, that’s not financially reasonable,” said Asta. “We’d have to raise the guard captain’s wages in order to make more guards worth it for him. Large chunks of our money are already committed to the school, the medical clinic, and especially the news. About half of our funds go directly there to pay five artists, five typesetters, five falconers, and the manager. And now we’ve got to pay for an injured mother’s family as well.”
Habbard rubbed her temples. “The way I see it,” she said, “we have a few options and the people will hate every one. We could raise taxes, cut wages from the news, remove our funding from the clinic, or… oh.”
Habbard smiled. “Trade, m’lady.” She shut her mouth, apparently remembering that she was the ruler now. “Trade,” she repeated. “We could open trade to Fumus and Iontos.”
“That would mean establishing an alliance of sorts with two governments that condone angel hunting and openly oppose the Seekers in the war,” said Asta. “Other governments would cut off communications with us and we would lose our neutral standing. That aside, associating ourselves with murderers would put us on bad terms with everyone–including the capitol city.”
Habbard frowned and blew out her breath. She brought her hands together and rested her chin on her thumbs. Asta took her silence in and continued:
“I don’t think this is a matter that we can settle with more money. We need to use what we already have. The guards are capable of doing their jobs–they were just slow to react for reasons their captain seems unable to fathom.”
“Don’t they just need to do their jobs, then?” Habbard asked, eyes narrowed. “The guards are there to prevent such things.”
“Yes,” said Asta, leaning back and placing her hands on the edge of the table. “But did anyone tell you how the riot started?”
The governor nodded. “A debate disconnected from its original purpose.”
“I propose an organized framework for formal debate.”
“And I accept your proposal.”
Asta smiled. The governor was an easy woman to work with. In theory, she was the adviser now, but though her husband and son were no longer in control of the government, she remained in power. Behind the scenes, of course. Gloria Habbard was a young woman, elected for her youth and promises of a fair government. Asta remained in power because she, not Gloria, knew how to run a democratic government. The governor would learn eventually, but at that point, Asta’s position would be secure. Before the democratic revolution, her husband was in power and she stood behind the scenes, sometimes making decisions when he wasn’t around. Now she was in power. She wasn’t the local figurehead. She wasn’t worshipped by the people and that was just fine with her. She knew she had no chance of overturning the government once more into a monarchy, but she knew how to work with democracy as well.
“Habbard,” she said. “Let’s let the citizens vote for organized debate.”
“Why? Nobody would object to it.”
“Exactly,” said Asta. She tightened her fist in front of her. “All citizens over twenty-five registered to vote, and with this, they can all use their registration for the first time. It will give them a feeling that they can control what happens in the government–true democracy, if you will. At the same time, it raises their opinion of us.”
Habbard nodded, smiling. “I have an idea for the structure of formal debate,” she said. “Would you read it when I’m finished?”
“I’d be glad to,” said Asta. This was exactly the way she needed things to be. She needed the governor’s trust, and then, slowly, she could build up the best democratic government on the continent.