The constitution meeting was to take place in the throne room – this served as a not-incredibly-subtle reminder from Jazan about who exactly was in charge here. Nabile sat beside Jazan underneath the great bejeweled hood of the Cobrall-shaped throne and looked down where, in front of the dais, a table had been laid out with chairs on each side. There were two chairs at the head of the table, and Nabile and Jazan would actually sit there for the work they were doing, after they’d made a suitable first impression.
She wished the Scarabs could see her in here, wearing a silk gown and gold and jewels. They’d be impressed. Or they’d laugh themselves silly. Or Raq and Yari would try to steal her jewelry. Jazan had given Nabile a lovely gold necklace with a winged Scarabug pendant, and the dark purple silk of her dress made it shine brightly. He was every bit as fine as she, in his finest white-and-gold robes. She thought he looked extremely regal and impressive, and hoped that she did, too. She was even wearing a crown today – just a simple gold circlet on her head, nothing even as elaborate as the rearing Cobrall that was customary on the king’s headdress.
However, despite the fact that many of the other ladies wore armbands with their sleeveless dresses, Nabile had left off that particular piece of jewelry. She wouldn’t cover up her Scarab tattoo. She wanted to be queenly and learn to rule, but never at the expense of denying who she was and where she’d come from and all her friends back in Sakhmet.
Farouli and Zara arrived alongside Kiyaa and Nightsteed – Nabile smiled and waved at them, and they all took seats close to the head of the table, except for Nightsteed, who paced up to them. The lord and lady and the Chief Mage had also brought writing cases and parchment – Nabile recognized the sheaves of notes as kin to those that waited at Jazan’s place at the table. She hadn’t made any herself – she was waiting to hear what everyone had to say, first. She didn’t want to just talk for the sake of talking.
All the other nobles, generals, and other important people trickled in over the next several minutes, all stopping to bow to her and Jazan as they came. Nabile nodded her head in acknowledgement to all of them, and smiled at some of the people she knew – Mirzah slid in quietly and took up a place against the wall, as did several other apprentices and advisors who were to observe but not take part. Many of the lords had people who did the sort of work for them that Nightsteed did for Jazan, and they were attending. There were a lot more [i]people[/i] than Nabile was expecting, and she started wondering whether she ought to merely keep herself to herself.
Only when everyone had taken their places and servants had brought some light food did Jazan stand up and walk down to his place – Nabile mirrored what he did, taking her seat beside him. Jazan took a sip of the fruit juice that had been placed by his plate, and then nodded. “We shall begin. Lord Farouli and Lady Zara, you have drafted an introduction to propose to us?”
Lady Zara began reading – there were a few word changes from the one that Nabile had heard at lunch yesterday, but she still thought it sounded good. She liked that Lady Zara talked about responsibility to the people of Qasala. If any of her Scarab friends had been told that the Sakhmeti officials had any responsibility toward them, they would have laughed themselves silly.
Though Nabile wondered whether the Sakhmeti were as self-serving as they’d always seemed from a Scarab perspective. She liked her cousin Amira, after all, and it didn’t seem likely that there were so many nice and hard-working people in Qasala and the Sakhmeti were a bunch of… well… Lord Onases and Lady Isadres.
Lord Onas was sitting farther down the table, next to Sarikash, but Nabile noticed that Sarikash had his chair angled slightly away from Onas, as if to get as far away from him as possible. Meanwhile, Lady Zara finished reading, and Jazan asked, “Are there any questions, objections, or alternate proposals?”
Sarikash raised one hand. “Is there enough emphasis placed on the rule of law, do you believe? As that is what we are attempting to create, I believe its importance should be stated clearly at the outset.”
Kiyaa replied, “It wasn’t precisely [i]explicit[/i], but I think the very existence of a constitution is proof enough. And I believe Zara has summed up our previous discussions in a lovely way. Thank you, Zara.”
Jazan nodded. “It shall stand as is in that regard.”
Onas raised a hand. “Your Majesty, today I believe we should discuss the protections for landholders that will be built into the constitution.”
Which meant lords and ladies such as Onas himself. Nabile knew that giving them some powers and redress of their own was important – lords and ladies had probably been the worst off of anyone under Razul’s reign. He’d considered the common folk beneath his notice – it was the nobles who were the targets of his bullying and paranoia. But Onas wasn’t thinking about that. He was thinking about protecting his own interests.
And Nabile wasn’t the only one who saw that – several dirty looks were shot Onas’s way. Jazan said, a hint of steel in his tone, “This is a general session, Lord Onas, intended to discuss larger directions. Those protections have been decided on as a whole, and have been given to Shorach, Asini, and Zulias to draft. Unless you wish to object to their selection?”
The general, scholar, and lord in question all glared daggers at Onas, and he immediately subsided. Jazan cast an eye at Nabile, who gave him a very small smile. Jazan said, “It shall be discussed again when the draft has been presented.”
Sarikash raised his own hand. “I would like to suggest a change to the structure of the document.”
There were groans. Talk of structure changes was never welcome, Nabile knew – it was largely semantic changes, rather than the actual policy, and Jazan had told her that at one point they’d spent an entire meeting arguing before it had been discovered that the two opposing sides were actually suggesting the same thing. Jazan merely nodded, though. Sarikash continued, “I think that the Mages’ College and its governance ought to be included in the constitution, similar to how we are including the Lord’s Council, the army, and other bodies.”
Kiyaa bristled, her green eyes fierce. “And [i]what[/i], exactly, gives you the right to speak to how the Mages’ College ought to be run?”
Sarikash responded curtly, “Eyes.” He allowed that to sink in before he continued, “Mages’ Colleges are powers in every state in Neopia. Whether they admit it or no, they influence kings and emperors. I understand your desire to operate as an academic body, without interference. And I understand that King Jazan agrees. But we are not merely looking to our own lifetimes. In Qasala’s history, the Mages’ College has been responsible for defending the people when a mage-king departs from what is good and just. A framework should be in place so that, should that happen again, they will be ready – as you were not when Razul turned on us all.” He held up his hand against several indignant cries. “I mean no blame. He had divided us all, and left us helpless that dark day. But I propose that we must hold Razul’s foul deeds in our mind as we move forward with our work. What can we leave in place that will make it harder for a future king to do the same? What can we do to keep future generations from enduring a curse such as we did?”
Nabile thought that what Sarikash said made a lot of sense. But she looked down and realized that Jazan was clenching the edge of the table. She laid a hand over his, and then looked around – all of the other people at the table looked either angry or upset.
She knew why Jazan was upset. He still blamed himself for not stopping Razul in time. But it seemed that the memories were still extremely painful for those present here – Sarikash may have made more of an impression than he planned to.
Nabile suggested, “Adding a new section for the Mages’ College is a major change that will require some thought. Should we come back to that later, after we’ve all had some time to think about it?” She felt small, high-pitched, and overall pathetic, but someone needed to say something, change the topic, before the silence became even more oppressive.
Jazan nodded. “Queen Nabile is right. Faliyah, you had the draft on the responsibilities of the king?”
Nabile hadn’t envied Faliyah on her assignment, but Jazan had said that it was important that everyone discuss the king’s duties and responsibilities. Nabile had laughed, then, and told him that it was important because otherwise he’d try to do everything himself. And he’d smiled at her and nodded ruefully.
He wasn’t smiling now. He was distant and preoccupied, she could tell, and she’d bet a week’s dinners that he was thinking about Razul. And many of the other people at the table were only engaging half-heartedly as they discussed Faliyah’s draft and debated the wording therein. Sarikash had upset one impressive Buzzer’s nest.
But Sarikash had been [i]right[/i]. That was the test they ought to be applying to the rebuilding of Qasala – they’d all seen what had happened. They’d discussed what Razul had done to them, the red flags they should have noticed, the red flags they [i]did[/i] notice but were helpless to handle, and everything they could have done or needed to do to stop him. And now the nobles of Qasala were in a position to make it harder for some other crazy down the road to do that again – they needed to apply what they’d learned from all the horrible things that had happened.
Nabile was going to have to think of a way to help Sarikash. Not just because she wanted to earn his respect, but because she genuinely believed he had a good idea and a good way of looking at things.
Now [i]how[/i] she was going to do that would be the complicated part.
This whole grand plan seemed to have a [i]lot[/i] of complicated parts.
But she was going to handle it in the grand Scarab tradition – make it up as she went along and hope it didn’t all go south.