Wilom and Vanda waited for a while outside the door. Rytel was the only one inside, and though he was as ready as he would ever be to present his idea to the Heads, Wilom wasn’t particularly sold on the idea of being stuck alone in a room with of Rytel or Vicdra. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long until the others arrived.

The three Heads sat in their usual places. Vanda took a seat, but Wilom was fidgeting too much, so he stood at the end of the table, carefully lining the ledger up with the edge of the table.

He was concentrating so much on staying calm that it took him a few moments to realise that everyone in the room was waiting for him to start speaking.

He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. “Well. I expect everyone’s waiting for me to unveil some grand idea.”

“Hoping,” Manda corrected him with a wry grin. “If you have one, now would be the time to impress us.”

Vicdra waved his hand impatiently. “Just tell us!”

Wilom shrugged. “Sorry. Here it is: The newest, most up to date laws about housing and moving around inside the country are mostly in the vein of “everything we will ever do is illegal”.”

“We already knew that,” Rytel said. “I don’t want to press you, but do you have something or don’t you?”

Wilom pressed down the Ferryman’s Knowledge, hard. “I do. I do have something. But it’s more desperate than grand.”

“These are desperate times,” Vicdra said.

Wilom took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Anywhere that they can send police patrols, we’ll be in trouble. They have us coming and going with ID laws. There isn’t much we can do about that. The only thing that we can do is move people somewhere there aren’t any police patrols until we can get them documents. Unfortunately, after Peggy … after Ms Stern, I mean … police patrols have doubled outside the Capital, too. We can’t rely on the coast town police to turn a blind eye to newcomers anymore, and we can’t rely on most places near the Capital to remain patrol-free.” He rested his hands on the ledger. “I think, if we could get the resources together, there are a few places where we might build a few houses without anybody noticing. It would have to be back from the border, and somewhere nobody could see it from a distance. It … couldn’t be a permanent solution. But it would at least be more comfortable for them, and a little safer. And if we kept it quiet … I don’t think the government has the people to spare to make a fuss if the news doesn’t get wind of it.”

There was silence. Everybody seemed to be glancing at everyone else. Vanda gave Wilom a thin-lipped smile, obviously supposed to be encouraging, but she was a little too nervous to really sell it.

“It’s risky,” Rytel said. Like an echo in her voice, Wilom heard all the other phrases she wanted to use, but didn’t. Vicdra gave her a look of surprise. That she had censored herself, or that she seemed to be considering it?

They were desperate, then.

Rytel had seen the look Vicdra had given and she did not argue because she feels they have no other choice but she doesn’t wish to give up so —

Wilom was grateful that Vanda started talking then, so he could pull his mind away from the Ferryman’s Knowledge.

“Everything we do is risky. This isn’t that much riskier, really. And we’re running out of options.”

Manda held up her hand to silence Vanda. “Rytel? Was there anything else you wanted to say?”

Rytel turned to Wilom. “Where are these … places that a town might go unnoticed?”

Wilom spread the roadmap he’d brought out on the table and put fingers on a few places. “I think here, here, here … maybe here? I haven’t been to those areas myself, otherwise I’d know for sure. We’ll have to have a proper look before we can say for sure whether this will work.”

“What resources do we need?” Vicdra asked suddenly.

“I’m not entirely sure that question is of the moment,” Manda said. “Wilom. Wouldn’t you agree?”

All eyes were on him. Wilom took a deep breath and nodded. “To answer your question, we’ll need at least building supplies, farming supplies … something to plant … at a minimum. But Manda is right – we need to make sure it can be done first.”

Manda gave him a knowing look, which he ignored.

“Well, what else do we need to know?” Vicdra pushed.

“Police patrols,” Wilom said. “We need to go to the sites, to see if they really are safe. Running water! We’ll need to make sure that there’s running water at the sites …”

He paused, waiting for one of the others to continue, but none of them did. There was a long, awkward silence.

“Do you think we could —” Vicdra started, but Rytel interrupted.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“I’m not getting ahead,” Vicdra protested “I’m considering options!”

“We need preparation before we can think about any further steps,” Wilom said. “Let’s just concentrate on the sites for now …”

“Yes! Preparation, not pipe dreams,” Rytel said.

“You didn’t even wait for me to ask!” Vicdra protested

Manda held up a hand to stop the other two. She and Rytel exchanged a look, then she said, “Vanda, Wilom. We need some time to discuss this.”

Wilom nodded. “Will you call us back in?”

“No,” Rytel said, looking at Vicdra rather than at Wilom or Vanda. “We’ll inform you when we have decided.”

Wilom nodded. “Alright, then. We’ll … wait for you.”

Vanda stood up without a word, and she and Wilom left the room. Wilom didn’t want to notice, but he did: they didn’t start talking until he and Vanda were far, far down the hall.




2 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal

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