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

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