The time had come for Rhule and Solar’s first council as the joint stewards of Bello Realm. It was to take place, as all previous councils had done in ages gone by, in the Amber Woods. All regions of the Realm had provided representatives, all except for the Infernal Gorge. Though none of the regions had provided a proxy, its presence was still felt as an ominous black smog loomed over the Gorge.
The woodland air felt heavy with anticipation as eager Augmentors gathered below the Great Tree, where there was a small green clearing. They waited anxiously as the morning light started to seep through the leaves above them, which were shaded with the browns and oranges of autumn. After a few moments, a bottomless bellow emanated from the base of the tree, a sound that shook all the long, thick branches of the wood. It was a signal they had been waiting for: the first council was ready to begin.
Rhule and Solar took their place upon the Steward’s Stone, which was covered in glistening dew, as the rest of the Augmentors circled evenly around them. When everyone was settled, Markik, who had come down from the mountains, raised his voice.
‘Stewards of the Realm, before you speak, let us who have travelled many miles, pledge our allegiance to you. You have been chosen by the Gods, the first Augmentors and the wisest of us all, to lead Bello Realm. May you do so with courage and honesty, may you work together in harmony and above all, may you strive to maintain this peace that we have long enjoyed. Come, my fellow Augmentors.’
On Markik’s command, those present at the council recited in unison:
‘We, who are here now, pledge our loyalty to the new stewards of the Realm, Rhule and Solar,’
Rhule and Solar both bowed in appreciation and acknowledged Markik’s show of goodwill. The great honor of stewardship was not lost on them and they stood proudly as if posing for a painting. Then, Rhule replied:
‘My fellow, noble, Augmentors. My sister and I stand here before you, humbled and jubilant, for this truly is a grand occasion. This, the first council, will be remembered for as long as Bello Realm exists.’
Solar then followed and spoke with less force than her brother, though with more elegance. Her voice was both calm and reassuring.
‘Indeed, this is a memorable day. My brother and I promise to serve the Realm as best we can. Your support will, no doubt, be needed as we move forward into the Third Age, together’.
There was a general cheer and Tundris, hailing from Frost Fang, gave a howl in recognition of the new stewards. A howl that stretched to the far corners of the wood, rustling the trees.
The council was to debate many things, but there was one subject of considerable importance: the quest for knowledge and understanding outside of the Realm. Rhule, who had always longed for adventure, declared:
‘The time has come to explore the Datasphere. The Gods, they taught us of our entire world, the Bello Realm, but now, we must go forth and discover. We must discover the place where we originate from, the source of our very code and our powers. As proud and virtuous Augmentors, we must reveal ourselves. We must show who we are in the name of Bello Realm.
Rhule’s words were impassioned and stirring, his manner bold and fearless. Ki, the head of the Jungle, enthusiastically beat his chest in solidarity with the proposal. Solar, however, was wary of Rhule’s envisaged expedition as she did not think the time was right to tread beyond their world. To Rhule, she responded with words of caution.
‘Rhule, you are the bravest of all of us and I would follow you into the depths of the Datasphere. But, you cannot govern Bello Realm if you are not here and I cannot do it alone. The Gods entrusted this honor to the both of us for a reason. There is rising tension from those who dwell within the Infernal Gorge, those who did not even provide a representative for this council. We should both be here in order to deal with their growing discontent. The risks are too great and we do not know what you will find, or if you will ever return.’
Rhule’s desire was ironclad. He thought they needed to know more about the Datasphere and to understand it. Because of this, his sister’s words stirred inside of him, irritating him and creating an intense response:
‘Solar, that is even more reason to go. Do you not see? We are not meant to stay here, we are meant for greater things. We are meant to go out and conquer.’ Rhule clenched his fist and banged it down upon the Steward’s Stone. ‘That is why the Gods chose us to lead. And as for those who dwell in the Gorge, all they need is a firm hand, someone to put them in order. This, I trust, you can take care of on your own, sister.’
There was an obvious unease between the new protectors of Bello Realm. The rest of the council, now slightly agitated, was unsure of whom to side with. Ki, who shared Rhule’s appetite for heroism, was in support of his expedition, while Tundris feared that the growing problem with the Gorge would require Rhule’s resoluteness.
Though Solar tried to protest, voicing the need once again for both new stewards of the realm to stay and rule, it was decided that a vote was needed. After much deliberation, the council chose in favour of Rhule’s exploration into the Datasphere. Elated, Rhule promised the council that he would discover the origin of their existence. ‘I will return,’ he said, ‘and with answers to the secrets of our world and beyond.’