Another meeting with the representatives. Srak looked around at each of them. The Elf was too confident, believing she was actually doing something here. Tallesia was giddy with her false power.
The Dwarf always felt like his people were getting the worse end of a deal. Maybe it was because Tibil and his people were so short—easy to get overlooked.
The Gnome, Sillius, was grumpy, trying his best to suppress his playfulness while still being playful at heart.
The Avian was quiet but Srak got a sense that Kethral thought about this situation in the same way Srak did. Still, the bird stunk of musty feathers and his magic made Srak uneasy.
The Human was new, but Srak knew that Simone would prove to be like the other Human. Maybe she wouldn't be so prone to showing her power, but she'd be after power nonetheless.
And the Beastfolk was stupid. Sungura let her people walk all over her, even though it brought her dangerously close to breaking the truce. Not that he cared. It was just one more reason for people to focus on something other than the Saurians.
Srak knew better than to believe that these races would get along and live happily ever after. He'd seen what different races do to each other. He had survived preventative measures from the Avians. He had protected his coastal home from the Elves. None of them could be trusted. It was only a matter of time, and he planned to be ready when it came.
"So what do we do now?" said Tallesia.
"Well, I guess now is as good of a time as any," said Tibil. He said across the table from her in a vacant corner of the tavern. "The Dwarves will be moving on once we are healthy enough to leave."
"What?" said Tallesia.
Srak cocked his head. "You would break the treaty?" It was more of a threat than a question.
"We would only get in fights if we stayed," said Tibil. "My people have been through enough. We need to recover before we can figure out what is next for us."
"You think you can recover out there in the wilderness of Daegal?" asked Kethral. "We have walked much of this land and it is anything but safe. Our sight of the far parts of it is not any better."
"I think if we stayed here it would only put my people in danger," said Tibil. "Besides, the original colonists were not part of a treaty."
"Each person didn't sign a treaty," said Srak. "Their leaders decide for them, and they listen."
"It doesn't matter. We are leaving. We will still look for the missing people, but we will do it on our terms, outside of this colony," said Tibil.
"You realize what this does to the current balance at the colony, don't you?" asked Tallesia.
"Yes, it gives you more space and it keeps us out of danger," said Tibil.
"It also makes the other races only want to find their own people," said Tallesia. "It encourages us to not find other races or turn away from findings if they are not our own. You are dooming the treaty itself by leaving."
"I said we'll still help. We'll look for information and other people. We're not claiming a piece of Daegal for ourselves. We're trying to take care of our own."
"Then do that here," said Tallesia. "I don't want Dwarves here any more than you want to see my face every day, but leaving is declaring war. It's making a claim on the new land and it's abandoning the people who helped you find your people when they still have missing loved ones."
"You didn't find my people," said Tibil. He stood on his chair with his hands on the table. "A Dwarf did. And he had the help of that group that was exiled from the community. We don't owe you anything."
"It doesn't matter who did it," said Sillius. "They were part of this colony. To the outside world, they see it as the Dwarves not being true to their word."
"Don't you dare," said Tibil, stabbing a finger at the Gnome. "If I had it my way, you'd be dead already. You and your-stupid-mocking-selves. You probably think this is all fun and games, don't you? You probably think that we deserve it."
Sillius smiled at the elevated response that Tibil gave him. Srak watched. There was more hostility there than before. Maybe there was something Dwarf knew that Srak didn't. Maybe he could get it out of the Dwarf.
"If you leave this colony it doesn't just mean that the Dwarves declare war on everyone else. It means the Dwarves are fair game. Anyone can attack you without breaking the treaty." said Srak.
"You're that heartless, that you would attack a camp of wounded Dwarves?" asked Tibil.
"If you're going to back out on our deal. Then yes. I'm that heartless," said Srak.
Tibil looked around the room. Everyone was staring at him. Srak even hoped he'd continue with the plans he had proposed. One less problem. One less race to pretend to get along with. And he had had many run-ins with the Dwarves previously. They were vermin, infesting the darker places of the earth. He'd be happy to be rid of them.
But Srak also needed to look like he was part of this game. He needed to avoid raising suspicion.
"Fine. We'll stay here, but we'll need our section of the encampment back," said Tibil.
"I'm not going to take away land that my people worked for," said Sillius.
"You little rat," growled Tibil. "You only have that land because my people made it available. Now there are more of us. We can't all fit in that hill."
"That was the deal we made," said Sillius. He talked with his chin up now like he knew he was getting under Tibil's skin. Srak couldn't figure out why, but hostility was good. It meant they might slip up, make a mistake. And he could take advantage of mistakes.
"Stop it," shouted Simone. "We can figure something out. But we're all heated right now. Why don't we discuss it once we've calmed down."
"Because my people need a place to stay," said Tibil.
"Then let's cut the original Dwarf camp in half. Half goes to the groups that helped, half goes back to the Dwarves," said Sonia.
"That's our land!" said Tibil.
"It was your land. You left it behind. That will have to do for now. It was only 10 or 20 people, right?" said Tallesia.
"Yes," said Tibil.
"Then let's do that. We'll reevaluate in a few days," said Tallesia.
The table went silent as Tibil continued staring. He kept his gaze on Sillius. His breathing slowed and he looked around at the others. "Fine," he said. Then he sat back down.
"Well, the next order of business is what do we do with the Treek girl and her search party?" said Kethrall.
"Are they planning on staying?" asked Srak. "They're a problem."
"We don't know yet," said Kethral. "The Treek is still recovering, and the rest of the group isn't talking about their plans yet. I think we should have an answer for them when they decide."
"We shouldn't let them stay," said Sungura. "I don't know what happened with my people, but that Treek is only causing trouble. She's walking the line of danger in this colony and we already are barely holding ourselves together."
"She found my people, which is more than any of you can say," said Tibil. "I owe her a great debt, and I think she should stay. She's found a lot so far and she'll probably find more if she's allowed to stay."
"She didn't even find the Dwarves while she was allowed to be in the colony," said Simone. "If we are looking at this with the sole motivation of finding our people faster, we should force her back out into the wilderness. That's when she made her greatest contribution yet."
"It's true, she has found a lot," Kethral said. "She was only second to my people in findings until she found the Dwarves. Maybe she should stay so that we don't lose her to the roving monsters of Daegal."
"She needs to be sent away," said Sillius. He didn't even give an argument. Instead, he just looked at Tibil.
Tibil roared. "You're just saying that to get on my nerves."
"No. She's causing problems," said Sillius. "She's breaking down the status quo by working with other races. She's causing people to act out and potentially break the treaty that was created to find our people. And, we all know why her kind have been hunted."
"She would help us find your people, and do it quicker," said Tibil. "This place is meant to be a sanctuary from the war. If we send her back out there, who knows what the Beastfolk might do to her when no one is watching. And it's too dangerous for us during the day time. We have already lost a few people to the land and its monsters. We can't lose her group. They're actually doing something."
"It doesn't matter," said Sillius. "You're outnumbered. It's you, Tallesia and Kethral against the rest of us."
Srak snorted to get Sillius's attention. The size difference between them was scary. Sillius was almost small enough that Srak could bite him in half if he wasn't so fat at least. "I think she should stay."
"What?" said Sillius. "You just said she was a problem. And you should know better than most what she's capable of."
"I did say that. And she is a problem. I was there when the Treeks unleashed the deathweed. It killed a whole city of Saurians among the ocean caves of Vershak. And when it spread enough that it affected the rain, it killed more that ran from the first wave of it. People from my village still have extra limbs and incurable diseases from it. I do know better than most what her people can do, and I don't take that knowledge for granted.
"But she is also helping. So if she is willing to stay, shouldn't we let her so that we can react faster if she tries something?" He looked at Simone. "What's that saying you Humans have? Keep your friends close—"
"—keep your enemies closer," Simone said, completing the phrase.
"What about them killing a Beastfolk? We can't just let that go," said Sungura.
"You said you're not even sure they did it," said Srak.
"I'm not," said Sungura. "I still don't want them living among us. They're dangerous. Regardless of who's story is correct. She still animated an entire forest. What if she just wants to be here to attack from within."
"It's seven of us against one of her," said Srak.
"But she is making friends too," said Sillius, staring back at Tibil.
"And she already turned a forest into her army," said Sungura.
"I sent a scouting party out there," said Kethral. "They aren't under anyone's control. They wander aimlessly. Still, it is scary to think that all came from one person."
"That's not something she's looking to do," said Tibil. "Why would she come back? Last I heard, Rodrigo had threatened her life when she ran from the Hydra attack."
"Rightfully so," said Sillius. Tibil glared at him.
"This is going nowhere," said Tallesia. "Why don't we take a vote, and we'll go from there when she wakes up and announces her intentions."
"Fine," said Kethral. "All in favor of the Treek and her search party staying in the colony?"
"Aye," said Srak.
"Aye," said Tallesia.
"Aye, " said Tibil.
"Nay," said Sillius.
"Nay," said Sonia.
"Nay," said Sungura.
"Aye," said Kethral.
"Okay, then. It's settled," said Tallesia. "Unless something else happens. They are allowed to stay in the colony."
"Fine. But it is only going to cause problems for the Beastfolk," said Sungura.
"And it's up to you to keep your people in line," said Kethral.
"I think that's enough for today," said Simone. "There's more to discuss, but I think we should do that when we've had time to clear our heads."
"I agree," said Tallesia. She was staring at Tibil and Sillius.
No one disagreed, and after a moment, they all dispersed. Sillius and Sonia stayed in the tavern, while the rest headed out into the colony. Srak left and headed straight for the Saurian tents. He wove through the tight alleys between tents until he came to a specific hut. He walked up to the door and said, "Chras, you there?"
A yellow scaled Saurian stepped out from behind the tent flap. He was skinny as far as Saurians went and shorter than Srak too, but Srak knew that was a good thing. The blue pattern of stripes running down his sides ad limbs seemed to accentuate his talent.
"It's time," he said.
Chras exhaled through reptilian nostrils and nodded. He grabbed a couple of things in a thin shoulder strapped satchel and headed for the rear gate.