A Foppish Coup, Part 12

Every eye in the room was fixated upon him. Someone who spoke, but almost apologized beforehand.

And worse…a tax collector.

Jakob cleared his throat, and tugged at his collar. He did not normally drink in public, especially at one of the rowdier establishments in Vladisburg. But when he had heard of a possible convocation to speak on Viola’s rule, he felt a duty to attend.

If only he had known the tenor, he might have summoned a guardsman. Still, he did collect their taxes. There was some measure of backbone in him yet.

“Countess Viola Konstantin has been nothing but kind to those around her,” he said. “She wields the powers given her with precision and aplomb. No matter the situation, or circumstance, her first question is how will this help Konstantin Valley.

“As for her powers,” Jakob breathed in deep. “After the attempted coup on her coronation, I am glad that she was able to defend herself. The men there tried to murder her without even giving her a chance, in an attempt to take power for themselves…”

“For everyone!” Someone shouted from the back.

“For themselves,” Jakob corrected. Angry mutters silenced him, and he looked around, suddenly nervous.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen.” Canterwright clapped Jakob on the back. Jakob jumped, fearful. He had not heard the lord approach him from behind. But Canterwright flashed him another smile, and looked around.

“We value all opinions. Even from tax collectors, right Jakob?”

“Even from fellow people of the Valley…” Jakob said. “I’m neighbors with all of you. And I stand with Viola Konstantin.”

“As do we all,” Canterwright said. “We just need a venue to air our grievances. Since the countess has closed court, it has been harder to get in contact with her.”

“And that shall change soon.” Jakob said. he stood up, and nodded to everyone. “To any man who has disagreements with the countess, be here tomorrow at nine. I shall personally escort you to the countess myself. She will hear your words, and try to make your life better.”

Canterwright chuckled. “You hold that much power over the countess, tax collector?”

“I hold no power over the countess,” Jakob said. “But I know her method of ruling. She will listen. I can guarantee that the same way I guarantee the rising of the sun.”

With nothing else to say, Jakob got up and left.

Canterwright laughed aloud, turning to the crowd. “It looks like someone is a bit too infatuated with our leader, eh lads?”

There was laughter, but it was mixed. The crowd of men hushed, suddenly unsure. Would someone make them a guarantee like that without meaning it? A few made plans to be at the tavern the next morning, just in case.

Canterwright ordered another round for the tavern. That got spirits up immediately, and conversation turned back to the usual rumor-mongering. Their fear was gone, as so many of the words and promises would be in the morning.

Canterwright sat in his usual seat in the back, and settled into his own drink. Another man sat down next to him.

“You’re needed upstairs.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

A Foppish Coup, Part 11

            Dear words, how often I feel thy sting.

            To be poetic, thou art so beauteous. Your curved grace, the lift and fall that can raise the viewer to highest of heavens. I love your sight, your sound, your taste. To be in the presence of such words cannot help but fill mine ear, my soul with glory.

            But words are not always so kind. In fact, your malice far outweighs your grace. For every one word of compassion, of concern, there is a deluge of ten thousand biting remarks. The floating whispers, the hard consonants hissed in the shadows. The call to rebellion.

            As I sit at my window, I can almost hear such words. They are wafting in on the midnight breeze. The chill adds to their bite, even as the poison settles upon my veins. The condemnations, the simplistic curses that beat at my open window.

            “She is too weak.” “Duplicitous.” “Why doesn’t she just find a nice man?”

            “What do we expect from a woman?”

            Yes, words. I accuse you so. You hate me, even when thou singest my glory. For I have forsaken my pedestal, my crown and wings, to instead commit the grave sin. I am working.

            Forgive me, words. Work with me.

            Or I shall destroy you.

“Order! Order!” The Lord Canterwright slammed his fist into the table. “I will have order, or I will have you all thrown out of here!”

The Serpent and Rose hushed. No one wanted to risk Canterwright’s ire, lest he remember their face. Being banned from the tavern was tantamount to suicide.

He slicked his hair back, and sighed. “Citizens of the Valley. Friends, all. I convened this event for a chance to air grievances, and find a way to remedy them. But screaming does nothing to help your cause.”

He nodded to one of the men who stood still. “Brekk,” Canterwright handed him another mug of ale, and settled the woodsman into an empty chair. “You were speaking.”

“Sorry, Lord Canterwright.” The man sipped his drink, and tried to calm down. “And I’m sorry, everybody. I know that, tensions are high and all that. We supposed to be better, and I want to. But Viola…”

“The Countess,” Canterwright murmured.

Someone spat in the back of the room. Canterwright ignored it, and focused on the words.

“That’s it, though!” Brekk said. “Since we got this girl in charge, we been nothing to her. No tax relief, and worse! She’s giving the trees, our livelihood, to damn…things!”

Other woodsmen muttered their approval. Many had seen their profits cut deep by Willow Sam and his treemen. At least, they could not cut down certain trees.

“I worked this land,” Pol stood up. “Going on thirty years. My father worked it, and his father, down five generations. And then some woman comes in and says I can’t work it no more? And gives it to some foreign twigs?”

“And she’s talking of putting some of these creatures in the guard.” Another voice volunteered.

What? The guard? They’d have to salute such a thing? They’d have weapons, and able to…what? Kill honest humans for the crime of doing honest work?

“Makes sense,” Brekk muttered. “One spell loves another.”

“Um, excuse me.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder