Breeze’s tail twitched. She scowled at the heavy stone doors before her, willing them to open.
“Glaring at the doors won’t make the council open them any sooner,” remarked Lichen beside her.
Rolling her silvery eyes, Breeze gave an exasperated sigh and said, “They’ve been in there for hours.”
“You know how Earth-Wolves are, they have to discuss every little thing.”
“They told us they were ready to tell us their decision!”
Lichen snorted. “Which only means they think we’re ready to hear a decision, regardless of whether or not it’s been made.”
With a groan, Breeze collapsed to the floor. “Why are we even here, Lichen?”
“You know why,” Lichen said, ignoring her younger companion’s dramatic antics.
Another groan. “Do we really need their help with the mine?”
“Unless you develop earth magic in the next moon, then yes. We can’t extract those gems ourselves.”
The sound of the doors opening made Breeze shoot back up to her paws. A brown Earth-Wolf slipped out, an extremely haughty look on his face that said he knew exactly how irritating it was for the two Wind-Wolves to be kept waiting.
“The council has come to a decision,” he said, sneering down at the two she-wolves. “You may—”
“Thanks,” Breeze rushed by the Earth-Wolf, Lichen following only a little more slowly. Neither she-wolf missed the slight curling of his lips, or the way he slammed the door shut behind them, just barely missing Lichen’s tail.
“Oops,” he said, his tone completely unapologetic, when Lichen glared at him. “I was told Wind-Wolves were faster.”
Lichen ignored the barbed comment and padded after Breeze, her head held high. The two Wind-Wolves stopped in the middle of the circular room. The Earth-Wolves of the elder council sat before them on a raised platform. Breeze very much wanted to demand why they had taken so long to come to a decision, but wisely held her tongue. Earth-Wolves were very particular about younglings speaking before elders.
“We have considered your proposition,” Elm, the Twin Trees Clan Alpha said. He looked slightly irritated, something Breeze thought had to do with dealing with crotchety elders. “We will put forth a counteroffer.”
Breeze fought back a groan. The last time the council came up with a counteroffer, Lichen had insisted on countering it, which resulted in delaying the decision for another two days. Which left the two Wind-Wolf ambassadors to click their claws and wait.
“A moment to speak with my clanmate.” Lichen turned to Breeze when Elm nodded.
Lichen cut her off. “Don’t get impatient. This is how Earth-Wolf politics work. It’s all a formality; their whole philosophy is about having patience and thinking everything through. They have to test us to see if we’re willing to work with them.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Breeze scoffed. Things were decided much faster in Gaoibeanna.
“Of course it’s ridiculous, but we’re in Taladair, and this is how the hunt works. You’re the one who begged to tag along.”
Ignoring Breeze’s grumble of “I just wanted to travel”, Lichen returned her attention to the council. “We will hear the counteroffer.”
Elm nodded. “We will send five wolves to aid in the extraction and refinement of gems in your mine, in return for half of what is gained.”
“That’s the original offer!” Breeze hissed through clenched teeth.
“Keep your tongue in,” Lichen growled back under her breath. “Remember, it’s part of their diplomatic game.” Addressing the council, Lichen said, “And will a direct trade route between our clans be established?”
“Yes. And safe passage in our territories.”
Lichen paused and appeared to think the offer over, much to Breeze’s displeasure. Finally the older she-wolf looked up at Elm and said, “On behalf of the Dark Cliff Clan, I accept this offer.”
Relief flashed across Elm’s face. “The Twin Trees Clan looks forward to this alliance and many moons of friendship between our clans.”
“As does the Dark Cliff Clan.”
Both Wind-Wolves ducked their heads into a deep bow, only moving when Elm nodded his head in return. Lichen then straightened and led the way out of the council chamber.
“Does this mean we have to deal with more Earth-Wolves the entire way home?” Breeze asked the moment the doors shut behind them, unable to stay silent any longer.
“Yes. They’re sending us off with a feast, so be nice,” Lichen added when Breeze groaned. The words immediately caused Breeze to brighten, and the younger wolf hummed happily as she bounced a few steps ahead of Lichen. The prospect of free food never failed to cheer her up. Lichen could only roll her eyes.
It would be an interesting journey home.