The meal that evening went off with surprisingly little chaos. Troy, Dave, and Benson did not disappoint in their epic pancake-making skills. There was just something about a fresh, warm stack of pancakes that mellowed out even the tensest mutes. All in all, the representatives each found their way to their rooms after the feast feeling satisfied and ready for the next day ahead.
It was after all of that when things got tricky.
Late into the night, while the mutes were sleeping soundly, Molly Yarnchopper woke to a rustling noise. She thought maybe it was a rat at first (of the non-mute variety; she’d never break the sacred peace code of Ratland), and got up to inspect the oddity. To both her disappointment and curiosity, she found it to be a neatly folded piece of paper slipped under the crack of her door. She opened it up, and her eyes widened in surprise. Quickly, she went to wake Yumyan.
A few minutes later, the two Timbercats entered the same meeting room that had been crammed with mutes and humans alike during the daytime. Except that now, it had only Scarlemagne, Camille, and Cotton sitting at the table. Scarlemagne was at the head of the table, of course, and he smiled when they entered, beckoning them in. Molly and Yumyan sat uneasily in the two chairs he had left empty for them.
“Sleep well?” the mandrill asked. “I do hope you’ll forgive the mediocre timing, but with so many mutes staying at the palace now, it seemed the easiest way to have a private conversation.”
Molly unhooked the ax from her side. “A private conversation, huh? About what?”
“About Kipo, of course. And her safety. Which I fear may be threatened.” That silenced the table quite nicely. It was true that Scarlemagne didn’t know the entire history of what had transpired between the snakes and the cats. But the fact that they had all managed to sit together at a meeting without trying to murder each other told him one simple thing–Kipo had gotten to them both. Which meant both groups of mutes would be quite sentimental about the girl. Which meant they’d be more open to helping him. There was no way a couple of children could plan a proper counterattack to Emilia and the army she was amassing. When, and not if, they failed, well…Scarlemange’s position of power was already quite unsteady. Emilia was a threat to Kipo, too, of course. A threat to all mute-kind. Better to gather allies around a cause they could all agree with.
“You gonna spill what this threat is or sit there smiling weirdly at the wall?” Camille asked.
“Hmph.” Scarlemagne straightened and adjusted his collar. That was the trouble with non-mind-controlled minions. They didn’t just sit there and let you soak in your own genius. They demanded to be interacted with. Exhausting, really.
“Simply put,” Scarlemagne said. “I believe–”
“Ah-ha!” A bang echoed throughout the room as the door burst open, and Kipo stood behind, hands resting on her hips in triumph. It all happened in that exact order, too. The dramatic exclamation of victory, then the door-slamming, which revealed that Kipo was already grinning. If she had slammed open the doors and found the place to be empty, she would have been extremely embarrassed.
Or perhaps she wouldn’t have. She was Kipo, after all. Scarlemagne sighed in resignation, while the cats and snakes at the table welcomed Kipo over.
“Epic way you handled the meeting this afternoon,” Cotton said as she took a seat.
“Your words inspired fear and awe at the same time,” Yumyan added. “It was a speech worthy of an ax-raising.” At this, he and Molly both raised their axes.
Kipo blushed. “Aw, you guys, that’s so sweet. I just spoke from the heart is all. You know if you want some pointer–oh, wait. Hang on. I forgot why I came here.” She stopped blushing and immediately turned on Scarlemagne, eyes narrowed. “You, sir, are having a secret meeting!”
Scarlemagne crossed his arms and stared at her, deadpan. “No, not at all. The Timbercats, Umalat Snakes, and I have been holding tea ceremonies in this, the sacred hall of teapots, for the past three years every Saturday evening without fail.”
“Wait. Really?” Kipo looked to the snakes for confirmation.
Before any of them could reply, Scarlemagne did it for them. “No. Honestly, Kipo, you’re supposed to be a leader. Could you perhaps, I don’t know, attempt to be less easily manipulated?”
“Nope,” Kipo answered.
Scarlemagne waited for her to elaborate in some way, but when she stood there staring at him like he was the fool for not speaking next, he sighed and figured he might as well confess. “Fine. Yes, we were having a meeting. I wanted to discuss some possibilities about what to do in regards to Emilia.”
“Hang on.” Kipo’s face fell. “Emilia again? I told you that Wolf, Benson, and I would come up with a plan. Don’t you trust us?”
“In all honesty? No. And while you plan, the rest of us are supposed to…what? Twiddle our thumbs and wait for you to have a breakthrough?”
“Something like that,” another voice announced.
The door squeaked open once again. Scarlemange tried not to groan as Kipo’s two human friends–and they definitely had names that he most assuredly hadn’t forgotten–walked in behind her. At least the shorter one, the one who had spoken just now, had left her wolf cape behind. “You brought them with you?” Scarlemagne asked.
“My friends come everywhere with me,” Kipo happily announced. “Also, you really, really can’t sneak out of a room when Wolf is sleeping in it. She’s got a sixth sense about these things. Maybe a seventh or eighth sense, too.”
“Yep. Proven fact,” the taller human said. Benjamin, maybe? Scarlemagne thought he remembered that from the Thea-otters’ musical number.
“So, since you’ve gone through the trouble of calling this midnight meeting, you want to hear our amazing idea?” Kipo asked.
Scarlemagne tried not to roll his eyes too much. This was his little sister after all. “Let me guess. You were having a heartfelt conversation with your human companions about hope and friendship, and then all of you did a little friendship dance that awakened your inner schemer?”
“Actually, no. I thought of it after I saw how your power worked with Gerard,” Kipo replied. “Y’know? The cool telepathy thing you can do?”
Scarlemagne nodded. Younger sibling or not, his clever wit was clearly lost on her. “Continue.”
“Well, it occurred to us that you don’t have to send out orders that way,” Wolf explained. “You could send out messages, too. Couldn’t you?”
Scarlemagne rubbed his chin. It had never quite occurred to him to use his power in such a way, but the human girl wasn’t exactly wrong. “I suppose I could,” he allowed.
“Then you’ve got the perfect spy in Kipo,” Benson said. “She can infiltrate Emilia’s human settlement, sneak around and find out what’s going on with the cure, and we can send in mutes to destroy it while she creates a distraction. You couldn’t coordinate something like that too well normally, but if you two can talk back and forth silently…”
“I have no way of knowing if someone could communicate back with me,” Scarlemagne said. “None of the primates I’ve ever controlled in the past have tried. But besides that, do you really think Emilia would be so shortsighted as to let Kipo anywhere near her research?”
Kipo frowned. He sincerely hoped he hadn’t been the first to point this out to her. That would just be sad. And it wasn’t even the worst flaw in her plan. She’d been resistant to his pheromone control before. The odds were good any messages he tried to send her the same way would be completely lost. He sighed and continued, “However…” Here Kipo perked up. “…I think I do know who you could send and you’re right. We do have the perfect spy.”
Isla was in the meeting room less than a minute later. She never did sleep soundly, but with everything else going on, she couldn’t say she was surprised to be called on in the middle of the night.
“Isla is a bit like you in her uniqueness,” Scarlemagne said by way of introducing her. “She has a bit of mute and a bit of human in her. But unlike you, she can get my messages loud and clear.”
Isla nodded, locking eyes one at a time with each of the confused creatures sitting at the table. She’d count herself among those confused creatures as well. But her boss always did have a way of building up his grand and amazing ideas for a good long while before he actually spilled what they were.
The difference was tonight, as he laid out his plan, she hated to admit that she actually agreed with him. It was just as clever as he thought. Maybe even moreso.
“I’ll do it,” she said without a moment’s hesitation.
Scarlemagne smiled that overconfident smirk of his. “Of course you will, my dear. Of course you will.”