Sarkard DeLure sat on his bed, feet on the floor, head in his hands – would today be the day he met the goals he set as a young boy? Everyday at sunrise Sarkard woke up, rolled to the side of his bed, and pondered his progress. He found checking in each morning kept his ambition burning strong. His wife, Marcia, lay asleep in a separate bed across the room. Sarkard quietly stood up, careful not to wake his love. He stepped to the wooden poles where his clothes hung. Skimming through each article, he wondered which outfit would suit him for his errands today. If ambition was one of his strengths, then indecision was one of his flaws. He and Marcia worked on improving his decisiveness everyday, but they had made little progress. Eventually, he picked a rose-colored tunic and a pair of light brown pants.
Today Sarkard, councilman candidate, would continue his campaign to be elected to the first Royal Council recently ratified by King Acetate. Becoming a councilman was the first step to fulfilling his own personal ambitions. Acetate was a fool; he believed in giving the population a voice, allowing them to have a say in the state of affairs. Sarkard believed in the strong need to guide the weak like the first King of Elodine, Rayon; he had made excellent decisions, except for his successor selection. But no matter, the selection of Acetate would still work out – the too jolly King would create the council, a path for Sarkard to seize a city for himself. He would rule to protect the people and more importantly, his two ladies.
On his way out of the room, Sarkard placed his metallic rings on his fingers before walking down the hall to the kitchen. Shannon, his daughter, was awake and eating breakfast. Sarkard smiled. Shannon was 21 and an assistant director in the Ikalga Treasury. There wasn’t much to not be proud of, excluding her reluctance to show up to her scheduled choosing day. Sarkard promised himself he would get her there this year, even if he had to pay someone to escort her. He afforded her many luxuries, but he would not allow her to ruin the DeLure lineage. Family was important to him, and it was imperative offspring did not disrupt the passing of strong genetics.
“Daddy, is that you?” she asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“Yes, dear,” he walked over and kissed her forehead. “Are you excited?”
“As much as a girl can be on her choosing day,” she smiled in between bites of cereal.
A choosing day was when a girl’s guardian choose her partner, ultimately deciding the fate for the future of the family. Only a minority of Ikalga participated in the choosing day ritual, but Sarkard would see that changed shortly. Once he was elected to the council, he would enlighten the population, especially that imbecile, Christopher Prismolg. More than likely he would end up as a councilman as well, and Sarkard knew he wanted to promote freedom – free trade, free speech, free choice in romance; it did not fit into Sarkard’s ideal city. Afterall, the city of Ikalga was young and he had a chance to mold it in his image for centuries to come.
Walking out the door, Sarkard was treated to a goodbye from Shannon and he smiled once again. The councilman hopeful shook off his smile and continued from his house to the Trading Union’s headquarters. The DeLures were overdue on paying the seasonal fee for their domestic rental, Rella. Sarkard had to pay the fee before the rental would be confiscated by the Union; that would not be a positive reflection of his family so close to election day. Plus, he enjoyed the company of Rella (not to mention that she cooked and cleaned). He walked into the headquarters and walked to the desk in the middle of the waiting room. The desk came up to Sarkard’s nose and he had to stand on the tips of his toes to see over it. Behind it sat a large, pale woman who’s face sent shivers down Sarkard’s spine.
“I’d like to pay my seasonal fee please,” he spoke to the secretary.
“For a rental or one-time service?”
“Rental, please,” he attempted to raise his voice an octave as the lady did not seem to be enjoying life.
“Okay,” she rolled her eyes and pointed to a door to her right.
As he passed the desk, Sarkard noticed the woman had a nasty smile that curdled the milk he had drunk earlier. Hurrying his pace, he reached the door but it did not open when he pushed; it was stuck. The lady grunted as she began to stand up. The process took a good 30 seconds, but once she was up, she shuffled toward the door, hammering it open with the back of her fist. The door was then stuck in the open position. A strange, twisted curiosity took ahold of him.
She turned, not yet back to her seat, “Gertha.”
“My apologies, Gertha. May I ask who you’re voting for?”
The lady wore a pleasant smile this time, “Lord DeLure, of course.”
“He does have great ideas!” Mr. DeLure himself beamed.
Gertha dropped herself into her creaking chair, reached onto her desk and showed a “Vote for Sarkard” pin. She then added, “Might want to come back later, sweetie, it’s nasty hour back there.”
He looked in the doorway and the sounds of a sizzling branding iron and the screams of at least two individuals filled the hallway; he knew he would not be paying his dues today. He did not want to discover the happenings of the Trading Union’s nasty hour.
Sarkard walked out of the building, disappointed in himself. How would he be councilman if he quivered in the face of Gertha, the secretary? Was he fooling himself? He stood up tall and briskly walked towards where Shannon’s choosing ceremony was being held. Even if he were a coward, he could be councilman for Marcia and Shannon, potentially even Rella, for he considered her family.
Sarkard strode into the ceremonial grounds with confidence, false or not, he could not tell. The befuddled man took his place at the podium on stage and eyed the attendees. His wife, his daughter and Rella sat in the front row while other family and friends sat behind them. Across the aisle sat the boy who Sarkard had chosen for Shannon. The boy’s family sat with him.
“No reason to delay the choosing ceremony any further,” he spoke, smiling.
“Wait, daddy, I’d like to speak to you for a moment in private,” said Shannon.
He should have known her being here was too good to be true. He stalled the ceremony as Rella grabbed Shannon’s arm and led her offstage to him.
“I am here because I wanted to tell you in person, I didn’t want to run away from confrontation – you know I cannot do this,” Shannon stated.
“Shannon, you will accept this boy.” All uncertainty draining from him. “I am so close to putting this family in a position to make a difference. What will all that be if I have a weak heir? It will all go to waste.”
“Is that all you care about? Am I just a tool to maintain your reign long after you’re gone? Sometimes I question what I am to you, papa…”
“You are one of the top accountants in the city. There wouldn’t be a standardized currency being invented if it wasn’t for your proposal, we’d still be bartering in the marketplace decades from now! You will carry on the DeLure name! I hope you realize that in a majority of families, the father’s surname is the one passed down, right? You know I got DeLure from your mother, right?”
“Yes, but what am I to you?”
Sarkard knew what she was, so why couldn’t he tell her? He spoke, “This society is new, it has many problems but you have it good here compared to most women in the satellite villages. We as a society have fucked up in many ways, but the treatment of women is not one of them! People can call me what they like, as long as they know I know women are the backbone of society-”
Shannon interjected, “You can’t even say, can you? Even forgetting that, how can you say you respect women when you don’t even give me the right to choose a partner? Is it because you don’t trust me to pick someone with handsome genes for your precious heir?”
“It’s not that…”
“Just because you need three weeks to finalize a decision doesn’t mean you have to punish me for it. I can and will pick who I marry. I will meet someone organically and I will make you proud, whether you can say it aloud or not! But I will not be your puppet, daddy.” She turned and starting walking away before pausing, “and you know I love you and mom, but don’t tell me that the separate beds are for practical reasons. Have you ever thought to spare me the misfortune of waking up next to a stranger? God forbid I wake up before sunrise and that stranger has scales or an exoskeleton.” Rella emerged from the shadows and continued to guide Shannon in her way through the stage backdoor and outside. Sarkard was left alone. True, he was indecisive and emotionally stunted, but he was open to change. One day I will be happy with who she chooses… just not today. With a brief nod to himself, he assumed his best councilman-worthy posture, and headed back on stage to dismiss the ceremony guests.