The Great Hall was the dusty inside of the main cavern. Glen stood on a portion that was raised above the main floor and there was a table there with six chairs. No other furniture adorned that whole cavern, but Glen imagined some stones and broken stalagmites could suffice for chairs and tables of a sort for the people.
Beyond the cavern – that Great Hall, there was a real opening to the outside. The sunlight streamed in from there and it looked powerfully bright. Glen wondered briefly if he had stumbled into a place that was too close to the sun. He wondered if that was why these people lived inside a cave. But he put that thought out of his mind when he came up to the table.
It was scratched and dirty and like the leader’s throne, not well kept. There was a thick-as-your-forearm candle in the middle of the table, stuck fast by candle drippings. It looked nearly burned to the bottom but stubbornly ready to be relit. One thing it told Glen was it would get dark, eventually. The thing is, he saw no fire, pots, pans, food, plates, cups, knives or anything that might go on the table. There was not so much as a cupboard in the corner, so he wondered what the table might be used for.
“Hello.” Glen thought to call out. “Hello,” he called softly. There was no one around. He felt sure there had to be other citizens, but there was no one. He found that curious.
Just beyond the table there was another archway – another opening to a cave in the back of the cavern which was beside the leader’s cave and looked just like it. This cave, though, had a desk and chair instead of a throne, and the man who sat behind the desk was so small he could barely reach his head and arms up and over the edge.
The little man shuffled papers with an air of authority and finality. Some papers he put in one stack and some he put in another. Some he signed with a great quill, and flourished the quill in a way that made Glen imagine a most flamboyant signature. When Glen stepped into the room, the man looked up briefly and spoke as he returned to his papers and otherwise ignored his visitor
“What is it, citizen? Can’t you see I am very busy?”
“Yes, I see your busyness. The leader suggested I see you.”
“Oh, he did? He would. But He knows I am too busy to bother with the common sort. He should have known better.”
Glen swallowed as his curiosity took hold. “But what is it you are doing, exactly?”
The man paused and looked up with surprise. “Why, I am deciding,” he said.
“You are the officer?” Glen wanted to be sure.
“Chief officer,” the man responded. “It is my place to decide things. I have to decide everything. The leader can make recommendations all day long, but I am the one who has to decide what actually gets done. Some things just aren’t practical. Some are contradictory. And not only that, I have to decide how things must be done. So now I have work to do. Good day.”
“But the leader said there was something I might do and you would know what that is,” Glen said before he wrinkled his brow. “I’m sorry, but what exactly are you deciding?”
With that, the man put down his quill and got down from his chair. That left only his tufts of gray hair sticking above the desk, and Glen watched it come around to the front. He found this man dressed in a terribly worn three piece suit. He had a gold watch and fob in his vest pocket and took it out to look at before speaking. Once the watch was back in place he looked at Glen.
“Briefly.” The man cleared his throat. “Power cannot fairly be shared. It is the one thing in life that must be vested. Why, if we let the ordinary people do whatever they wanted there is no telling what sort of things might happen. It would be anarchy, I tell you, everyone for themselves. Only one can rightly set the agenda for everyone to follow. It is a great and grave responsibility to have such power, I know. But I believe my small shoulders can bear it for a while longer. It is good to hear your concern, but you can trust that I will bear the burden with dignity and decide only what is best for all. Thank you. Thank you.” He waved, though there was no crowd to applaud.
“I see,” Glen said, though he still did not see. He began to inch back toward the archway while the man went back to his high chair behind the desk.
“Tell you what,” the man said once he was settled. “I’ll whip you through the papers to approve you for assistance until we can find something permanent for you. You go next door to the treasurer and he will help you out.”
Glen guessed and raised his right hand. The small man had to turn around and raise his own right hand before he could turn again and say, “Correct. Turn right in the Great Hall and the treasurer’s office will be the first door on the right.”
Glen nodded, tried to smile for the man and stepped back out into the Great Hall cavern.