Monthly Archives: September 2018

A Foppish Coup, Part 3

Sienna pulled her cloak further against her body. The children huddled close in the cold, seeking comfort.

“Sienna?” Ivan asked. “Do we do it now or…”

“Not right now, Ivan.” Sienna looked around Vladisburg, and winced. “Let’s get to the carriage first.”

The one town in Konstantin Valley had no real name. Or, more accurately, it held one every generation. Konstans, Victorie, Gratistown, all had been names for the town. It changed with the new ruler to reflect their emotion, or power. Currently Vladisburg, after the previous Count, as Viola had not taken the time, or inclination, to change it herself.

The town was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Valley’s achievements. A center of growth, industry, culture. However, all Sienna could see were the crude pictures of Viola. Suggestive cartoons on the backs of buildings. The leaflets against tyranny spread across the street. Another crowd gathering around that same upstart, standing right outside the Serpent and Rose.

Sienna hurried the children into the carriage, and closed the door. The driver had the horses going, and as soon as the blinds were closed, Sienna could breathe a sigh of relief.

“Are you okay, Sienna?” Pietr asked.

“No, not really.” Sienna said. She straightened, and cleared her throat. “Can you tell me why? Ivan?”

Ivan squirmed in his seat. He was the youngest, and was always picked on first for this test that Sienna called a game. He thought about it for a few moments, and nodded.

“Because people do not like countess Viola?”

“Very good, Ivan,” Sienna said. “But we need more than that. Why don’t they like countess Viola, Pietr?”

“Because people are telling them not to.” Pietr poked at the curtain, already bored. “Dirty pictures and drawings, bad speeches. That stupid man howling.”

Sophie poked him. “Hey!”

“We need to be more eloquent than that, children. This is a concentrated effort against the countess, openly mocking her rule and decisions. It’s meant to make people hate her, question her ability to rule.”

“And what kind of people are meant to question?”

Ivan scrunched his eyes shut. He knew it was his turn again. “Regular people?”

“Can you expand on that?” Sienna asked. Pietr started to open his mouth, but Sienna stopped him. She wanted Ivan to answer.

Ivan looked away, and murmured something. “What was that, Ivan?” Sienna heard it, but she wanted him to say it more clearly.

“People like we used to be.” He said.

Sienna hugged him close. “You are still like that, Ivan. All of you are.”

“We’re not!” Pietr protested. “We’re like you, Sienna! We’re…” he trailed off, suddenly bashful.

“You’re what?” Sienna asked. “You’re better?”

The children all looked one way or another, suddenly unsure. Sienna shook her head, sad. A few months was apparently all it took to burn away their common cause with the townsfolk.

“Why are we better?” Sienna asked. “Because we were born right? Because we had opportunities that many didn’t know they had, or never truly did?”

Sienna drew open the blinds, and looked out as Vladisburg passed them by. “These are all people, children. Trying to figure their way through this life, and make the best of it. We play this game to learn how to be aware, to better understand what we are doing, and how to improve. We are able to do so because we do not need to worry about food, or shelter, or comfort.

“Don’t judge those who do not have those chances. Find ways to bring them to your level.”

“But if they hate countess Viola, how are they going to change?” Ivan asked.

Sienna smiled. “That’s one of the questions, Ivan. But it is not the question. Anyone know that?”

Sophie nodded. “Who is trying to make them hate the countess?”

“There you have it.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

A Foppish Coup, Part 2

Sienna sat deep in a corner booth. Her hands clutched Pietr and Ivan Koskov. Sophie sat just to her right, leaning in. The three children leaned in to their adoptive godmother, sensing her fear and trying to both gain protection and give comfort. Sienna herself was dressed in a dark red gown, with a thin black cloak for propriety and comfort in the still-cold day.

Lord Canterwright stood just a few steps apart, and nodded to them. “They have come to my home, and my establishment that I gave this town in order to inspire a better place for conversation. Not a rabble to scream to the rafters.”

The man cowered, and remained bowed. “But the countess. She has done great evil.”

“But this is not the forum,” Canterwright said. “You are vulgar, and verbose. Let my men take you and give you a chance to clear your head.”

Nodding, the man was led away. There was a round of cheers and applause for Canterwright. He smiled, bowed, and returned to his seat.

“My apologies, Sienna,” He said. “I cannot abide such rudeness.”

Sienna nodded. She did not like the fact that many were now talking about it.

“Dreadful business,” Canterwright said. “Talking up a rabble. And Viola in her first year, with barely a chance to defend herself.”

“Then you should say something,” Sophie muttered.

Sienna’s hand clamped over the girl’s mouth, and she giggled. “Canterwright, I am sorry for my ward’s outburst.”

“Not at all.” Sienna removed the hand, and Canterwright looked the girl in the eye. “Freedom to express different opinions is the foundation of a society. If we are afraid to speak, then we are afraid to know truth. And without truth, how can we live?”

He gestured around him. “I do not use my entire house, have never needed to. And so had the first floor turned into a taproom for the rabble. It generates some small income, but far more importantly it generated debate. The common man, free to tell his story, to air his grievances before they could fester. Is this not how it is meant to be, in the Countess’ new world?”

Sienna gathered up the children, and pushed her way out of the seat. “Just make sure that grievances are merely spoken, Lord Canterwright, no more.”

The lord bowed low. “Sienna, if I have offended…”

Sienna held up a hand. “No. no…not at all, milord. I simply find myself overtired by this spectacle. And the children have their studies to return to.”

“But you said…” Pietr started to protest, before Sophie’s foot somehow found itself in his shin.

“Studies such as horseback riding and archery…” Sienna winked at the boys. “I think we all must have a well-rounded education, now, don’t we?”

“Yes, Sienna.” The children chorused.

Sienna pulled Canterwright in for a close hug, surprising him. “But I cannot leave without a promise for a real dinner, sometime soon?” she asked.

Canterwright laughed, and returned the hug. “Of course, Sienna, it would be my pleasure.”

Sienna squealed, and pecked him on the cheek. “Come along, children. We mustn’t keep Lord Smyth and his teachers waiting.”

Sienna did not let her mood darken until she was out the door. She caught a last glance at the sign above the entrance, and sneered.

“The Serpent and Rose. Accurate.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder