© copyright 2008 

     A door to one of the rear portals swung open. When Ambrose saw the cluster of department heads, he stopped trembling—and froze solid. The High Council was even more daunting than he ever imagined. It crawled into the chamber and onto the dais towering over the Lion like a broad and twining winter oak—Hydra—one monster with nine heads. And every eye on every head was fixed on the fledgling alderman. 

     With so many sets of frosty eyes pinned on him, Ambrose lips were too numb to move. His brain went cold too. He tried to recall how Hercules slayed his Hydra. 
     “Not by standing there like a block of ice, that's for sure!” It was not the voice of Hercules tugging his ear. Ambrose didn't know exactly whose voice it was, only that it had been persistent—and inspirational. Whoever it was, it helped draft his proposal and prompted him to introduce it to the High Council so it might be enacted into law. At this moment, Ambrose' mysterious muse was a whiskered old codger, no bigger than a twig, with what appeared to be a bath towel wrapped around his waist. This hoary fellow perched on Ambrose' shoulder like a jay bird chirping encouragement into his ear. “Step up to them and start pitching our idea like I taught you!”
     Ambrose remained locked in the grip of the Hydra's host of glowering eyes. Eyes of wolves and witches, and bulls, and boars, and beasts no words were fit to name. Not one of the creatures issuing from the viper's scaly hulk uttered a syllable. They remained silent as death as they wriggled and twitched like snakes about to strike. 
     Suddenly Ambrose felt a sturdy hand on his shoulder, pressing him forward. “Don't falter now, my boy,” the codger urged. “It's only the Council. You needn't confront them all at once. Start with that one—Ceryneia—she's the Head of Education . . . and a good first lesson!