A Foppish Coup, Part 25

Yoric stood before the crowd, and pointed at her.

“You, vile witch, are removed from power. You shall stand trial for your crimes, and hang for the evil you have perpetrated upon the Valley.”

“Stand trial and then hang?” Viola said. “Why have the expense of the first, if the latter is already decided?”

A villager screamed, and launched himself at the countess. Viola danced one way, and then another, avoiding the clumsy strikes with a garden hoe. She shook her head, sighing. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to have a conversation.”

The man screamed again. He swung again, desperately trying to kill her. Viola struck his wrist, knocking the farm implement from his hands.

“I cannot understand, or rebut screams,” Viola said. she picked up the farm implement, and set it aside. “Please return to your friends, and I will hear you.”

But the crowd did not want to hear her. They wanted to tear her apart. The nobles stood in the midst of the townsfolk. Whispering rumors, lies. The power she held, how it was going to hurt them. Kill them. If they did not stop her.

“Marya?” Viola frowned, and looked deep into the crowd. “Is that you?”

An elder woman stood tall. Her figure was hidden behind her apron. Her dark eyes looked away in shame, recognized. “Yes, countess.”

Viola smiled. “How is your son?”

“Well,” Marya said. “The doctor set the leg, and will be back next week to inspect it.”

“Very good, very good.” Viola scanned the crowd, and nodded to a man clutching a pair of garden shears. “And Yuri, looks like you must have just been preparing to return Boris’ shears at the manse. Does he enjoy his gardening duties?”

“Very much…countess.” The man muttered.

“I know what you’re doing, countess.” Yoric said.

Viola cocked her head to one side. “Yoric? Is that you?”

He spluttered. His fist shook, but then regained composure. “So, your good graces are only for those who know you. The rest of us can only hope for crumbs.”

Viola shrugged. “Or drop by.”

“When?”

Viola bowed her head in assent. “That I will take responsibility for. I have been remiss in holding court. Too many new duties for a young girl, especially when the nobles are clogging up your time.”

Canterwright could not believe it. She was stopping everything. All of his plans, torn apart because she had had a chance to speak.

He needed to stop her. Get her off-course. Reeling. He looked around, trying to signal to one of his men.

“Tree-whore!” One of the noblewomen shouted.

Canterwright groaned, and cursed silently. Not that. Do not invoke that.

“Hmmm?” Viola looked at the woman. “Lady Olivet? Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“You’re a perversion!” Olivet shouted. “Mating with those…trees! We saw everything at the ball.”

“Did you?” Viola asked. “You were in my room? You saw the treemen crawl out of my window?”

“She admits it!” Olivet said.

“I admit nothing of the sort.” Viola retorted. “I spoke with and charmed a magical creature.”

Her eyes narrowed. “But, as we are talking about the ball…Sten!”

A young man stuck his head out of a window, and pointed at Olivet. “When did you see Viola, lady?”

Olivet paled, her hand going to her face.

“Was it when you demanded I join you in the gardens? When you told me to remove my clothes?”

This couldn’t be happening. Canterwright stared in horror. Somehow she had planted them. All her allies, already scattered amongst the crowd. Months of planning, and she had seen through it all. How?

Olivet was trying to find someplace to hide. Sten was graphic, and yet kind. He never mentioned actions, though the crowd knew what he had been forced to do. Several mothers looked to their own children, thinking what they must have done in these nobles’ employ.

Viola remained stoic. Do not show emotion, no triumph. This was a terrible moment, bittersweet and cathartic. Victory will be claimed, in calm response.

“Murderer!”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

A Foppish Coup, Part 24

“Torches!” The nobles shouted. “Pitchforks!”

All and more. The villagers were armed with anything they could get their hands on. It was time to overthrow the countess. And return the power to the people.

Never mind that the nobles were in charge. Never mind that the people had never been in charge. Viola was alone, and unnatural. And a woman. She should never have taken power in the first place.

All the while, the nobles made promises. They would return the Valley to the people. There would be tax relief. The fae would be thrown out, and borders sealed. No one need ever fear the will of a single magical creature ever again. One promise after another was made, with no regard as to feasibility, or how it would be done, or if it matched with reality.

Not that it would have mattered. The people believed them.

Sienna watched, helpless. Bound in the Serpent, watched over by the now-conscious bartender. She could not move, for fear that he would use the knife in his hands. She wanted to scream, wanted to plead for sanity. For reason, for the common folk to ask why the nobles were acting thus. But no one asked questions.

“We will storm the palace!” The nobles shouted. “The guard will not fight their own countrymen. We will overthrow the countess, and tear the manse down upon her.”

The crowd roared its approval. Five hundred strong, armed to the teeth. Bound together by a noble cause. How could they not prevail? Down with tyranny! Down with evil! Down with Viola!

“Charge!” Canterwright bellowed.

The village trembled. The villagers roared, and started to move. Until they realized that it was not their movement that caused the tremble.

The earth seemed to crack open. A pillar of ice shot out of the ground, just in front of the village. It soared into the air, hanging above the heads of everyone. The villagers and nobles stared, dumbstruck.

With a peal, the pillar burst apart. The shards shattered into ten thousand pieces, scattering to the ground. The villagers screamed, shielding their faces as harmless snow rained down on their heads.

“Hold fast!” Canterwright shouted. He shot an angry look at the nobles. Several had grabbed villagers, trying to use them as shields. They quickly regained their composure, and stood tall.

Canterwright turned towards the edge of town, in the direction of the manse. “She comes.”

She did. Not at the head of a great army, or any sort of delegation. Not with ice trailing before her to announce the coming of her glory. Instead, countess Viola rode in on her own horse. She wore her riding leathers, a simple shirt, and her sapphire necklace. Her hair was unbound, and she was smiling. This could have been any other day, riding through town.

Viola stopped at the edge of the crowd, and bowed her head to the crowd. She dismounted, and stood before the crowd, still smiling.

“Good morning, countrymen.” She looked straight at Canterwright. “I understand we have things to discuss?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder