Iris stared at the Mayor of Omorfiá with a soft, but thoughtful expression. Her memories were vague, and from when the original Iris was young. 'He looks like a nice guy, but..'
Mortimer Ugo was known as the Golden Undine for both his coloring, and his ability to turn one coin into four. He was one of the original Iris' tutors as a child, and was considered to be a fair and generous person.
As he swam closer to them, Selena was the first to speak; "How have you been, Mayor Ugo? It's been quite some time since I've seen you last."
Mortimer flashed an uneasy grin; "Personally, I have been well, but the city has been having a few issues with bandits. They raid the outlying sections of the city and those passing through the kelp forest. I sent a request to the palace for help, but have yet to hear back from them."
Selena sucked in a sharp breath; "What?! I haven't seen any reports like that. Whom did the message get sent to?"
Mayor Ugo shrugged; "I'm not sure. All I've been made aware of is that the Council had received my complaint, and that they were looking into it."
"How long ago was this?" Iris asked with growing irritation.
"It has been over two weeks, my Queen.. I was going to go up to the palace today, but," Mayor Ugo rubbed at his lower back; "it seems my back knew you were coming."
The joke made Selena and Iris smile, then Iris asked; "They didn't tell you a senator's name by chance, did they?"
Mortimer donned a contemplative expression for a few seconds before answering; "I believe his name was Arlong.. What?"
As soon as the name had left his lips, Iris and Selena's faces had automatically scrunched up like they'd smelt something foul. Looking at their expressions, Mayor Ugo sighed deeply.
"I take it that those looks mean something bad?"
Not thinking, Iris replied; "I don't think it's a bad thing. The guy was an-ouch!"
Selena had swatted Iris with her tail fin, keeping her from commenting further. Even in the Aquarian World, it was bad manners to speak ill of the dead right after they'd passed. No matter how much they deserved it..
Iris glared at Selena before she explained the earlier events of the 'test'. The citizens gathered and listened as well, whispering and gossiping occasionally. When Selena had finished, Mortimer looked to Queen Iris with surprise.
"I'm so happy that all those hours tutoring you weren't wasted, hehe. You've grown into a strong and intelligent ruler, my Queen," his face had shifted to a soft, nostalgic smile as he'd spoken.
Iris smiled kindly at the older Undine, but her instincts were nagging at her about something. When he swam up to them, his shoulders were slightly hunched. And up until that point: his smile had never reached his eyes.
'Something seems hinky about this guy, but I can't put my finger on it.. Iris' memories are telling me I can trust him, but my human instincts are telling me something is..off, about his sincerity up until now.'
Iris wasn't hiding the scrutiny within her stare, and Mayor Ugo noticed. Instead of openly reacting, he'd simply smiled wider. Almost like he was proud of her for noticing..
After a bit of small talk, Iris' stomach grumbled again. Mayor Ugo chuckled, then led them to a restaurant that was a favorite of his. A portion of the spectators had disappeared, most likely to spread the news, but a sizable group still followed them into the restaurant.
As arguments began to spring up over the amount of seats versus the amount of people, Mayor Ugo decided to step in..
"Now I know that you are all curious about the Queen and High Acolyte, but please; go back to your works. Yiannis, your wife will be angry if you're gone from the shop too long.. And Dimitris! I fear what your mother and sisters will do to you if you don't sell those vegetables from your cart today.."
"I promise I will make an announcement tomorrow morning about the Queen's visit, so don't fret any.. It's not like they're going to take me with them, right?"
Mortimer had turned and looked at the two woman, who nodded with confused expressions, especially Selena.. 'Why would they worry about that?'
Iris was aware of what was happening around her, but was vastly preoccupied by the smell in the water. It reminded her so much of steak that her mouth was literally watering.
Once the mayor had eased the tension within the crowd, they were seated. As soon as the waitress asked their order, Iris requested whatever the delicious smell was. All three ordered the same thing, and didn't wait long for their food to be brought out.
The hunks of hot stone-seared meat reminded Iris of steak, except for the fact that it was purple. She poked at it with what she knew was a fork, even though it only had three prongs. The object reminded her of a trident, which made her think of her Merman friend as she stared at it with a small smile.
"Is it not cooked to your liking? They always cook mine a bit longer than most, and it seems they've done the same for you two," Mayor Ugo asked before sticking a piece in his mouth.
Iris flushed slightly as she realized both the Mayor and Selena were watching her; "No, it's actually really good! I just got lost in my head for a second.."
Selena had noticed her dazed expression, and knew who she was thinking about.. It irritated her to no end. She didn't trust Merfolk, and had a reason for it...
Deciding to change the subject, Selena asked about the bandits in detail. The three talked as they ate, even though Iris was still having small issues with the way her food looked.
The meat was purple, the 'potatoes' were green, and the Aquarian equivalent of green beans were a deep red color. It took her a few minutes to gather the courage to try them, but once she had: Iris shoveled her food.
"WHY would anyone want bubble bites when you have food like this?!"
The statement had come out of nowhere as Selena was explaining how the Scales of Themis worked. The two chuckled at the Queen's enthusiasm, especially the mayor. He seemed extremely happy about Iris' change in personality; so much so that he'd actually said something about it.
"I'm glad to see that you're finally taking your role as Queen seriously. To be honest: the people were growing quite restless waiting for you.."
Selena's features turned sharp; "Oh really? And what were they doing to pass the time?"
"...Just talking, I assure you. No one is knowledgeable enough to change anything, so it never went any further than that, at least not here. I'll spread the word to the outlying settlements and villages. It will give them peace of mind to know that their Queen is finally taking up her responsibilities."
Iris wasn't that dense; "Revolutionary ideas, I presume?"
Mayor Ugo stiffened slightly; "Just ideas, Your Majesty, I swear.."
While Selena wanted to explode about their disloyalty, Iris shrugged; "It's cool, I get it. That's why I'm going to break and remake the Council into what it should've always been.."
Mortimer quirked an eyebrow at his Queen in concern; "What's that?"
"Representatives of the People, not personal interest. I might turn every politician there against me, but it's getting done. Governments are supposed to support their people, not suck them dry of their own livelihoods."
Mortimer evaluated the Queen's words and reaction, but saw no signs of guile or manipulation. He only saw a happy, idealistic young Undine Queen..
After they had finished their food and discussion, the mayor directed them to a clothing shop. Once the two bid him farewell and went inside, several male Undines swam up to him with eager worry; wondering what had been said.
A wide grin stretched across his face before Mortimer said; "You don't need to worry about anything, men.. I believe the Queen will hold true to the changes she plans on making. I'll explain more at tonight's meeting."
One of the men swam forward; "Do they know? About what we were planning? Are.. are we in trouble?"
Mayor Ugo smiled softly at the young man; "I don't believe so. Selena isn't one to hold back her anger, and nothing angers her more than disloyalty. I think if she knew, I probably wouldn't have made it out of that restaurant alive.."
Another young man spoke in a low tone; "So they don't know that we were going to revolt?"
Mortimer shook his head; "No, I think everything is fine.."
The mayor had said it to comfort his people, but Mortimer knew that at least the Queen herself, had figured out that they were going to start a revolution. Her lack of hostility over it threw him off at first, but then he realized that she simply saw the same problems that he did.
"It may have taken our young Queen some time to see, but she is now aware of the corruption within our kingdom, and has assured me that she will act. I will explain everything in private, at the meeting later.."