“This is of tantamount importance. The manse, nay, even the entire valley, may depend upon this decision.”

Viola frowned, torn in indecision. “Are cream puffs in fashion now, or perhaps eclairs?”

The cooks had joined her on the terrace, with an arrangement of baked goods for her to sample. The countess was trying to decide upon a theme, and it could not be overstated just how refined this choice must be.

She plucked a particularly succulent cream puff of the plate, and held it before her military adviser. “Your opinion, Nalus?”

Nalus snorted, and took the puff. He had never had a cream puff before. Count Vlad never would have had them in the manse, preferring food that he could either chop, suck, or tear apart. This little…delicacy, would crumble before a sharp wind.

Besides, eating a cream puff just seemed to go against his sense of himself.

“Eat the cream puff!”

Nalus popped it in his mouth. He chewed for a moment or two before swallowing.


“The cream is excellent. The puff itself is flaky.”

“Perfect.” Viola said. “I can assure you all that this is tantamount to high praise from the tight-lipped adviser.”

She waved them away, sighing. “Eclairs it is, then. Take this away.”

Nalus grunted, and tried to hide his disgust. The cooks had prepared a feast for Viola. A selection of cream puffs, the eclairs she had just chosen without a bite, not to mention an actual brunch that could have filled the stomachs of not just her, but five of his hungriest soldiers. All now thrown away before it had even gotten cold.

Viola tapped her fingers twice, and the next group appeared.

Nalus was growing used to this sort of gathering. Viola never spoke with the guards, or the nobles. She preferred speaking at the servants. It left everyone with a sour taste in their mouths. The nobles felt left out, and the common folk felt awkward, a ruler trying to pretend to be normal.

“Nalus may be able to help with this one.”

Viola hugged the gardener close, and looked out towards the gardens. “What are we going to do about that?”

‘That’ was the scar in the middle of the gardens. Whereas the rest of the gardens were a plethora of fruit bearing trees that formed a maze around the south side of the building, there remained, since before Viola’s reign, a single gash through the center. Torn and frost-bitten, it was a white and blue sore on an otherwise floral delight.

Nalus frowned. The little eyesore had been around for…perhaps eighteen months or so. No warning or explanation. It had taken the place of a statue to the Konstantin legacy and crest. Rumored to have been conceived by Alexsander Konstant and Ilya the Wise themselves. And it was gone. Not just shattered, or frozen beyond the breaking point. Gone. And in its place was the scar.

Vlad had been livid when it had appeared. He had several of the gardeners flogged, and three guards dismissed. Nalus himself had been threatened with reprisals. But as quickly as he had raged, so did he stop. Nothing to be done, leave it as it is. Perhaps it can be a legacy of its own.

Viola smiled, and looked to Nalus. “What do you think, Nalus? Is it time already to tear up the frost?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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