Chapter 6 — An Impossible Marketplace
Article I. The proceedings of these Meetings shall henceforth be kept confidential. No records may be made of any kind except for copies of these Articles. Any Attendees found in violation of Article I will face penalties as outlined in Appendix A.
Article II. The Awakened Council shall be appointed by majority vote at the end of each meeting. There shall be three councilors elected from the Attendees, as per the Three Gods. Voting shall proceed according to the system outlined in Appendix B.
Article III. Meetings shall be held on neutral territory as agreed upon by the previous Awakened Council and the Three Gods. Meetings should take place no less frequently than once every three months. A schedule for Meetings may be determined by the Council at the close of each Meeting.
Article IV. The Council and the Three Gods shall determine the agenda for each Meeting following election, and act as moderators for open debate when necessary. Councilors may end debate on a topic with a majority vote.
Article V. All Attendees agree to be bound by the decisions of the Council or lose the privilege of membership in future Meetings.
Article VI. The Articles of the Awakened Council may only be amended by a three-quarters majority vote of all Attendees, as outlined in Appendix C.
Article VII. No new Attendees may be awakened without the sponsorship of a Councilor.
Article VIII. The Three Gods are not permitted to attend Meetings. All prior instances of their involvement in the proceedings are hereby abolished.
Article IX. An independent Moderator shall be appointed once every four meetings, to preside over debate and ensure the Articles are followed correctly. The Moderator will be elected by the Council pending approval by the Attendees, as outlined in Appendix C.
"We missed an election?" Alden asked with a twinge of disappointment.
"No one else ever wants the job. It'll be the same three people every time," Rika answered patiently.
Alden pored over the copy of the articles she'd fished out of her bag. Rika seemed very wary of every side street they passed, and wasn't prone to offering up explanations until Alden asked. He was mining the sheet of paper for every detail he could find, trying to understand the secret society he'd just stumbled into.
"And who are the Three Gods? Why'd they get kicked out?"
Rika sighed. "Because people are scum at their core. That's why."
"The original three people to found the group were crazy powerful. Like, more than all of the rest of us combined, each one of them. Someone started calling them the Gods as a joke, I think, and it stuck. Wasn't long for some people to assume they weren't even human. Didn't help that two of 'em decided to start calling themselves Alpha and Omega. I think they liked the attention. She definitely didn't though."
"She?" Alden prompted.
"Don't know her real name. Or any name, really. Some people call her Grey-eyes. You saw her though."
"With Hector just now, right? Wasn't she there?"
"That girl?" he asked skeptically, remembering the short, frail looking person he'd seen. She seemed like just a regular college kid. How could such a girl be called a 'god'?
" 'That girl' is the most powerful person I've ever heard of, Alden. I've heard she's nice, but that pissing her off is the last thing you'll ever do." Rika sounded deadly serious.
"Ooookay. Sorry I asked," Alden replied, still unsure if Rika was exaggerating or not. "If they're so powerful though, how'd they get kicked out?"
"I wasn't here anymore by then, so all I've heard is rumors. Something to do with Hector and the gray-eyed girl though," Rika replied. "I met Alpha once. He's an uptight prick and obsessive about making sure no one could tell who he was. He's got an agenda against people going public with magic, which seems pretty reasonable to me, but he's still in favor of the whole agenda Rachel's got going on, making a magic society and so on. There's a huge shitstorm waiting for all of us as soon as someone makes the five o'clock news and we're not ready to cover it up."
"No clue, never met him." Rika sounded like she was getting tired of the topic. Alden looked around, trying to get his bearings.
"Where are we going?"
"Well, we could have gone to the Market entrance back on campus, but I wanted to get away from Ryan before he started bitching again. So we're going to the one under the bridge." She pointed, and sure enough a small two-lane bridge out of town lay ahead, crossing over a narrow river, just past a line of small shops and businesses.
They bumped into a girl as they walked down the street. Literally, in fact: Alden almost bowled her over as they both weren't watching where they were going. He stopped once he actually took a look, though. She was drop-dead gorgeous, with perfect long blonde hair and the body of a goddess.
"Hey, Hailey. Long time," Rika said casually.
"What?" Hailey answered, looking like she'd only just noticed them. "Oh, hi Rika. Sorry, I can't talk."
She passed them by and rushed down the street, glancing fearfully over her shoulder at the setting sun with a haunted look on her face. Her stunning windswept golden hair followed her around a corner. Alden hurried to catch up, but she was somehow long gone.
"Who was that?" Alden asked, gazing at the spot she'd vanished from. He couldn't see anywhere she could possibly have disappeared to, but there wasn't anyone in sight.
"Hailey Winscombe, local party girl," Rika said in confusion. "Last I saw her she would never blow me off like that. Kept trying to get me to go to her stupid college hangouts along with Rachel. Never could get her to go out with me, but she at least still treated me like a person and not a wrecking ball." She sounded personally offended at the slight she'd just received, and turned away quickly as though determined to show she didn't care. Alden followed in bewilderment.
"Hi, Boris," Rika said as they passed by a small bookstore. Boris, the owner Alden presumed, gave them a wave as he continued to sweep the steps leading up to his shop.
"Good evening, Rika," he answered in a booming voice with a Russian accent. "I am pleased to see you made it back to our little town."
"Can't say the same. Glad you're still around though," Rika answered with a shrug.
"I'm rooted to this store, and it is to the ground," Boris answered with a chuckle. "Who is your friend?"
"Zack, this is Boris, one of the few legitimately cool people left in this town. Boris, Zack."
"Uhh, hi," Alden said awkwardly. "I like your shop." He meant it, too; Boris' little store had a very comfortable and inviting atmosphere even from what he could see through the door. It looked like a labor of love, something he could always appreciate.
Boris' face lit up with a wide, toothy smile. "A pleasure indeed! Please, do come in!"
Rika started to shake her head. "We're in a bit of a—"
"No, Rika dear, I insist. Enter, enter!"
Alden was more than happy to explore the store, despite Rika's protests. The odd combination of a small college town, an old Russian man and a quaint bookstore on the main road of the town was too much to ignore. Inside were neatly organized shelves, though by what system Alden couldn't discern.
Many of the books were—unsurprisingly—in Cyrillic, but for every Russian novel there was an English translation available right next to it. A few translations looked like original works, handwritten by Boris himself. Alden saw a few books he had just recently studied for classes only a few months prior. His were modern textbook style, with new freshly printed covers. These books were old, cracked and faded, full of history beyond just the words written on each page. He picked one up at random, not understanding the title but attracted to its beaten and frayed exterior nonetheless.
Boris spotted what had caught his eye. "Ah, yes. A book that traveled with me through many an adventure. I have always said that every book contains two stories. There is the tale written by the author on the page, and there is the story experienced through the life of the book itself. So long as a book survives, it still has stories to tell."
Alden listened intently to Boris' enthusiasm, but Rika was staring at the ceiling with an odd expression on her face. She looked about to sneeze, if Alden had to put a description to it. As they both looked at the ceiling, they heard a thump from above, as if something heavy had just crashed to the floor above them.
Boris' face shifted instantly to concern. He glanced at the door in the back, which Alden presumed must lead upstairs. "I am sorry, friends. If you will excuse me, please?"
Rika nodded. "We should be going anyway. Thanks, Boris. I'll stop back in soon, promise."
"Do, please! And bring your friend—I like him," Boris answered with a smile.
With that, Boris retreated through the door in the back. Rika took one last significant glance at the ceiling before she turned and headed out the door. Alden carefully set the book back on the shelf where he'd found it before following Rika back down the street.