Category Archives: In Constant Fealty

A Foppish Coup, Part 29

Viola loved the common folk, in her particular way.

She loved their straightforward nature. They wanted to kill her, and end a tyranny that they had been told was real. And when presented with the facts, or better yet her facts, they turned on the true villains. Bound those they once called master, led them through the forests, and dumped them upon Viola’s doorstep.

Viola ensured that each member of the force was duly paid for their troubles, and food was sent to their families. Other promises, such as looking at new tax policies, and perhaps a knighthood, were talked about. The countess might even grant them.

And when the new force was persuaded to leave, the real work began.

Nalus stood by Viola’s side in the court room. She addressed the kitchen staff, the gardeners. The maids, the soldiers. Thanked everyone for their service, especially in such a trying time. And promised that nothing like the abuse they had to endure would ever happen again. A new day was dawning, and they would be the true force behind the throne.

“Pretty words,” Nalus said as the staff left.

“I meant them,” Viola said. after a moment, she conceded “mostly.”

Nalus grunted. “How long did you know of the coup? Really?”

“Since the ball.” Viola said. “I had several long conversations with some soldiers, and found that they were getting several large payments. Bribes that seemed unnatural. Even the slightest investigation started turning over some truly disturbing plans. After that, my countermeasures started to fall into place.”

Nalus nodded. “The people.”

“The nerve of these nobles.” Viola said. “Or better yet, the stupidity. That pretty words alone could jumpstart a revolution. There was no force, no economy behind any of their platitudes.”

“While you had helped the real people, the salt of the earth.” Nalus marveled at her. “All while appearing the silly noblewoman in the wrong job.”

Viola giggled. “Oh, you know, Nalus.”

“The treemen, the guards. Was Sienna a part of the plan?”

Viola laughed. “Sienna can never be planned for, Nalus. She is so…innocent. So good, so willing to do anything for the grand plan. A true self-starter.”

“A dangerous thing.” Nalus warned.

Viola placed a hand on his cheek.

“I am the only dangerous thing. Now, let us see what the traps have caught.”

Nalus chilled. “Now, countess?”

“No time like the present.” Viola said. She got up, and led the way.

“Do you know why the people were willing to betray me?” Viola asked.

“Not at all.”

“It’s because they didn’t know me.” Viola said.

“That’s what all leaders say.”

“And for the most part they are right.” Viola turned at the edge of the throne room, and paused. They were going somewhere she had actually never been, no matter how much Vlad had threatened it.

“Nalus?”

“Close by,” The counselor said. “Behind the red tapestry.”

Viola frowned, and pulled back the tapestry. A wooden panel stared back at her. She rapped her hand against it, and smiled. “Ah, Konstantin manse.”

Nalus pushed the panel away, revealing the stairwell down.

“See, Nalus?” Viola said. “What we do not know, we view with suspicion. And to know something cannot just be told. We have to experience that something is not dangerous, powerful yet kind. Being told of one’s compassion is worthless. It has to be felt.”

“And you couldn’t simply bring this knowledge to the nobles?” Nalus asked.

“The nobles knew me.” Viola looked towards the cages, and the people within them. Her smile widened.

“Or at least, they thought they did.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

A Foppish Coup, Part 28

Sienna was released quickly. The bartender was already making excuses as he cut her bonds. He had been coerced, threatened even by the nobles. He was just another unwilling pawn.

Sienna rubbed her wrists, grimacing. How little he knew about Viola’s world. No more would being a servant save the weak. The countess expected all to become strong in their own right. Weakness and subordination would not be a defense.

She walked out of the Serpent and Rose to cheers. Sienna had heard Viola shout her praises, and the cries of the Koskovs. The very town that had unwittingly helped keep her prisoner, now shouted for her release. She didn’t know whether to cry, or to scream at the hypocrisy. Instead, she remained silent, and joined Viola in the carriage.

The young noble woman had heard most of what Viola had said. It had rung true, at the time. Viola had appeared contrite, and subservient. Slave to the will of the people. Only able to claw her way into their hearts by sheer force of will and personality. A marvel that would become legend.

But Sienna could see the shadows now. The guardsmen, in plain garb, scattered strategically across the crowd. All nonchalant, and ready to strike should the crowd turn violent.

And in the trees, she could see the treemen. None else could, Sienna was sure. But they stood just at the edge of the forest, watching. Sienna’s protectors, and even more insurance.

Somehow all this was brought to bear in mere minutes. Or was it always in place? Was Viola always ready to defend herself from her own people?

Sienna rode in the carriage, afraid to speak. Viola sat next to her, smiling. Further behind them, a deputized mob – again with several members of the manse guard hidden in the crowd – the rebel nobles were being dragged to the manse, and the dungeons below.

“Next time, warn me about your heroics, Sienna.”

Sienna blinked away tears. Viola nodded, and kept looking forward. “You may have been anticipating my needs, but there are others to which you are bound. And they are not so skilled in words as I.”

The Koskovs huddled together, happy to be alive and well. Nadia did not worry about showing her tears. She had already thanked Viola twice, and did so again with a glance.

The carriage stopped at a fork in the road. Sienna and the Koskovs stepped out, intent on turning towards the Smyth estate.

Smyth’s soldiers looked at the rabble with disgust. Lord Smyth stood with his men. His eyes narrowed when he spotted Viola, and turned back towards his own manse.

Viola waved, and hugged each of the children in turn before returning to the carriage. Sienna ran up to the carriage, and looked up.

“Did we do well, countess?” Sienna asked.

“Much more than that, Sienna.” Viola said. “The people are finally able to see me, as much as I want them to. And several of our undesirous characters are to be dealt with.”

Sienna chilled, and leaned close to Viola’s ear.

“…with prison sentences?”

Viola’s mouth twitched.

“Of a sort.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder