The gradual trickle of Ancients to the balcony had become by degrees first a steady stream and then a flood, to the present point where there were more men on the balcony then were in the hall. Indeed, initially there were worries that it would be unable to hold them all, but then the Walker of the Flowery Path recalled the time that it had had an entire orchestra on it. That had settled things, though most were still keeping their ears open for a creak that might suggest it was giving way and calculating their distance to the exists in such an eventuality.
"I never really thought of it before," said the Keeper of Three Ways, "but there really needs to be a reform in the way the Council does its business. Too much foolishness has been added over the years, and it has to end."
For the first time in its history, the Council members assembled nodded in agreement rather than pointing out the importance of tradition. "Really," said the Wearer of the Mask with Green Eyes, "it's gotten worse because we skip most of it, but leave it on the books. In the future we must trim, and trim mercilessly."
There was another general murmur of agreement.
"What about the Metropolitan?" whispered one.
"We'll... we'll bring him around," said the Keeper of the Three Ways. This resulted in another round of muttering and agreement, albeit one that was a great deal less assured.
"My goodness," said the Master of the Five Knotted Cords. "There are quite a few people gathering out there." He pointed beyond the Gate of Truth, at a large, scruffy-looking crowd that was growing larger and scruffier-looking by the minute.
The others began to mutter amongst themselves. "Perhaps we should send someone to check?"
"The guards will keep us safe," said another.
"First the fire going out, and then this," said yet another.
On the whole most of the Council was coming around to the idea that these truly were grim times.