Susan Gardner ~ Icy Summit

Episode 9: Reaching Consensus

part of: The Shadowed Ones

by Jeff Beardwood

Related by Katia, Twilit Deklamohedrin and Deznahdorean of the Wanderer Fourth Generation

The whole clan came together that night for the inevitable discussion about Daegle’s pending visit. It seemed strange that a mere dinner date could be the cause of such turmoil, but of course there was so much more at stake. Dear K’oja was there at my side as we assembled. We were surrounded by the people closest in our lives. D’hlea and Windsong sat cross-legged on the floor in the middle of our family room, D’hlea leaned her head on his shoulder affectionately. I was glad to have them at my side, both being examples of balance and compassion in their own way. Our children ran in and out of the conversation, playing but attuned to the gathering. They understood that something important was being decided. Arcono, being thirteen and the eldest of the three, was keeping an eye on proceedings, awaiting his cue to quiet the games. Gillia taunted Raell to chase her, and he obliged happily, his laughter ringing out loudly. They added a welcome lighter energy to the room.
That was our immediate clan…my family. Also present were some of our other friends from surrounding Wanderer septs. Two I hardly knew, Dhona and Felice. They were present to represent the part of our community most harmed by terrorism. Members of their sept had died in an explosion…a terrible act of random violence for which the Shadowed Ones were responsible. The other two were our neighbors and close friends. Both Dyre and Mallen were leaders in our larger community, accustomed to interfacing with the wider world and I considered their wisdom a blessing in our discussion.
“Thank you all for coming,” I began. It seemed strange…much too formal for the gathering at hand. It served its purpose though…I was now the focus of attention in the room. All the other discussions faded and the children came to sit with us.
“I believe you all know about my acquaintance with a member of the Shadowed Ones…how that came to be and most of the events as they have taken place.”
There were nods of agreement. K’oja reached out as I took in the response and rubbed my back, just a tender reminder that he was there with me.
I continued, “Today, as some of you know, things kind of escalated.”
“There was a phone call?” Mallen asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “But the reason for asking for your counsel goes well beyond the phone call…we have set up a tentative meeting face to face. This has implications that go well beyond our little sept.”
Malen nodded his understanding. Gillia and Raell shuffled a little. Children tend not to be still for more than a few seconds at a time, after all.
“You all know my bias,” Felice began. “But it seems to me this carries a great risk.”
“With great respect for your intuition Katia, there must also be a great potential to offset that risk,” Dhona continued.
“Fear is most often rooted in the unknown. Perhaps the greatest potential here is increasing our understanding,” Windsong said quietly.
“I also wonder how much the risk increases with this face-to-face meeting. Will we become more of a target?” K’oja asked.
“Does looking someone in the eye make them less easy to dismiss as ‘other’?” D’hlea completed the path of our collective musing nicely.
“Why do we fear Daegle?” Gillia wanted to know.
“He is with the Shadowed Ones. They have killed people,” Arcono tried to explain to his little sister.
“But why would he do that?” Gillia pressed on.
“A very good question,” I praised her. I adore the wisdom of our children. While they may not have all of the information or experience we have, sometimes that helps them bring a point of view to light we would otherwise lack. “That’s certainly a big part of why I’ve wanted to talk to him more…to understand the answer to that question. I believe I know too little to give you a just, rounded answer.”
“It’s very hard to imagine any motive that would justify killing,” K’oja added.
“But we really don’t know his story yet,” remarked Felice. I wondered if I could be that open and balanced if I had the same experiences with the Shadowed Ones that she had had.
Raell had come over to sit with me when he found Gillia’s attention was focused on the discussion. In a fit of fidgeting, he had performed an intricate gymnastic maneuver which had him upside down and twisted like a pretzel over my left shoulder. I really didn’t think he’d been listening but then he added, “maybe Daegle fears us too.”
“That may be so,” I told him before I tickled his exposed ribs and blew a soft raspberry above his belly button.
Everyone wandered in their own thoughts for a time after that. It was Dyre who finally broke our collective meditations. Looking me squarely in the eye, he asked me “Do you trust him?”
His question got back to the very root of what we needed to decide. I tried to sift through the complex layers of my response to get a true answer to his question.
“Although I still have some doubts in my heart, yes, I trust him,” I finally answered.
“We haven’t talked about the wider implications to our community,” Dyre pointed out.
“K’oja’s point was a good one earlier and may apply to the community at large,” said Mallen. “At this point, Daegle doesn’t need an invitation if his intention is to harm this sept or even those of us in orbit around it. He already has all the information he would need to do that.”
“Then I have one final question,” said Felice decisively. It seemed appropriate somehow that those who had the most reason to mistrust Daegle should bring our discussion full circle. I looked at her expectantly, wondering what the question would be. Exploring the faces of the others, their thoughts reflected my own.
“What question is that,” Windsong finally asked.
“What should we server for dinner?” Felice’s growing smile put the final blessing on our consensus.