Viola scowled, and sat back down in the great chair. “So the fools have not been in court in a few weeks.”

“Months,” Nalus corrected. “And it is difficult to attend court when you do not hold it.”

“It has been a busy few months,” Viola said. “I was getting used to ruling.”

“It is more than that, Viola.” Nalus said. “The nobles think you do not respect them.”

“That is not true.” Viola said. “I respect Lord Smyth. And there are others, like Canterwright. And there is yourself and Sienna.”

“Can you even name the others?” Nalus asked. “Or how many we have?”

Viola glared at him. “Would you like to continue to your point?”

Nalus sighed. Delicate, delicate. This was a young girl, she needed some time. But time was one thing she did not have. Compassionate bluntness was the best he could muster.

“You are young. And a woman. Two qualities in a ruler the nobles are not used to. And you crowned yourself in the midst of a rebellion, killing your would-be attackers with magical abilities that had, until then, bordered on fantasy. You crushed all dissent, demanding all kneel before you.”

“I am countess, and I was being crowned,” Viola said. “What would you have had me done, ask everyone nicely if they’d let me be their ruler?”

Nalus ignored the remark. “You split your time not with coordinating between the nobles, or developing the estate, but with the peasantry, or beautifying the place.”

“Nalus, I think you are being too hard on Countess Viola…” Sienna began.

“Truly? Because there are townsfolk actively talking about open rebellion.” Nalus pointed a finger at the countess. “If you had just played one way or another. Held the rebellion families in cells instead of mansions.”

“And now it comes out,” Sienna said.


“No, I have as much a right to speak as you.” Sienna said. “Viola has transformed the entire Valley. Some people may not see it, but I do. And so do the staff of the manse. And the treemen, and the Koskovs. It is just going to take time.”

“We do not have time.” Nalus said. “Someone is planning rebellion now. Viola cannot charm the entire Valley before this comes to fruition.”

“I don’t know about that,” Viola said. “I haven’t ever tried.”

Nalus spluttered for a word. Viola held up a hand, and he quieted.

“What would you have me do, Nalus?”

“Comfort the nobles.” Nalus explained. “Reopen the court. Pay visits to those who may be wavering. Stop trampling upon the traditions of the nobles…”

“Traditions?” Viola smiled at him. “What traditions would that be?”

Nalus opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

Viola stared at him for a time. Her gaze seemed to bore a hole through his flesh to his heart. No magic, no incantation, no trickery. In that instant, he knew that she knew everything he was thinking. And that she didn’t care.

Viola giggled, and jumped out of her chair. “I’m going to inspect the guard uniforms! Vlad always had them so drab and mysterious. Let’s spice them up with color!”

She left the two of them in the throne room.

“It’s going to be okay,” Sienna offered.

“Our Countess is running towards doom and destruction…” Nalus muttered. “But at least we will be color-coordinated.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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