The chattering in the council chamber stopped as the tall figure strode in through the main doors. The senators of Heretuscany watched in silence as Lawrencus Yulus removed his helmet and took his seat in front of them.
The Provincial Governor cleared his throat then closed his eyes for dramatic effect.
“I have a dream,” he began.
“Oh God, not those those bloody red boots again,” murmured someone.
Lawrencus opened his eyes and glared around the curved chamber table. He couldn’t tell who had spoken so he shut his eyes again.
“I have a dream that one day all men will be free,” he continued grandly.
“Make everyone free?” interrupted Senator Whinus Badsaw. “What about the slaves? You can’t just let them go. Who’ll do the work around the place?”
Heads nodded in agreement. Lawrencus hesitated for a moment.
“Well, yes. I meant all men except slaves of course,” he added quickly.
“And what about all the women?” asked his deputy, Senator Cynical Bowels.
Lawrencus took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “When I said all men should be free, I meant all women too,” he said after a moment.
“So all slave women would be free?” insisted Senator Bowels.
“Well, except those we need for cooking, washing and that sort of thing,” said Lawrencus, shifting uncomfortably.
“Doesn’t leave many people to be freed then, does it?” retorted Senator Badsaw.
Lawrencus took another deep breath. This was hopeless. How could he inspire his senators with his vision when they kept interrupting his flow?
“I need people of vision to see the way ahead for this province,” he tried again.
“Then count me out,” said Senator Lackus Luster. “My vision isn’t what it used to be. I can’t even read the order papers any more.”
“Don’t look at me either,” added Senator Rottus Heapus. “I’d need to have a long look at some gannet entrails before I could get wind of where to go.”
Lawrencus gritted his teeth. This was getting nowhere. Then a sudden thought occurred to him.
“I propose we ask our officials to prepare a document for us, indicating what we should think about the future and directing how we should vote on their recommendations.”
“All those in favour?”
“Aye!” came the unanimous reply.
“Time for afternoon tea yet?” asked Senator Bowels hopefully.
Two days later Lawrencus was escorted into the inner chamber of the Napierion council. He had asked for a meeting with Barbarus Arnottus to see if she could provide him with a bit more visionary inspiration than his own council.
She was sitting behind her desk, watching him with a steely eye.
“I have a dream,” Lawrencus began.
“If it involves amalgamation – or changing anything – you can forget it,” snapped Barbarus.
“We Napierions like things the way they are . . . or as they were 80 years ago to be precise. The great god Artus Decus has blessed our town and its people. People come from around the world to buy our straw hats and walking canes. And quite frankly, we share the view of Artus Decus that nothing ever came of change,” she said.
“Does Fentonius, leader of the Hawkus Bay Regional Chamber, agree with that vision . . . or lack of it?” said Lawrencus boldly.
“Ha!” scoffed Barbarus. “Fentonius was raised in the far north among the followers of the Mongol Mob. He’s a barbarian. He can barely see his way to Napierion for a few meetings each year, let alone look ahead to the future. He and his chamber are interested only in hoarding money and storing water.”
Lawrencus sighed. She was right. The damn regional chamber had pots of money and unlike him, didn’t need to placate the money-lenders hovering outside his headquarters back in Hustings.
“Well,” he tried finally, “what do your own councillors think?”
“They don’t,” said Barbarus with a thin smile.
Lawrencus excused himself and walked down the steps into the street. As he walked along the alleyways of Napierion, he came across a cluster of people staring up at the facade of a building across the road. A guide wearing a straw boater was explaining its architectural features.
Lawrencus noticed pictures on a nearby wall, showing buildings in the heart of Napierion before the great tremor of AD31 and how they looked today. He looked from one to the other. He couldn’t see any difference. Even the clothing worn by the people was exactly the same.
The realisation sank in. The vision of Napierions reached no further than their beachfront boundary. In 100 years’ time they would still be complaining about heavy chariots using the Paradus Marinus and the rising cost of straw.
As Lawrencus rattled home in his chariot, squinting at the distant hills of Havus Northus, he remembered how the ruling Torus Party had the foresight to force the petty rulers of the great northern city of the Jaffas into a single administrative body.
Perhaps it was time to get them to turn their vision to his part of the country, he thought with a quiet smile. Suddenly his vision had improved.