Every eye in the room was fixated upon him. Someone who spoke, but almost apologized beforehand.

And worse…a tax collector.

Jakob cleared his throat, and tugged at his collar. He did not normally drink in public, especially at one of the rowdier establishments in Vladisburg. But when he had heard of a possible convocation to speak on Viola’s rule, he felt a duty to attend.

If only he had known the tenor, he might have summoned a guardsman. Still, he did collect their taxes. There was some measure of backbone in him yet.

“Countess Viola Konstantin has been nothing but kind to those around her,” he said. “She wields the powers given her with precision and aplomb. No matter the situation, or circumstance, her first question is how will this help Konstantin Valley.

“As for her powers,” Jakob breathed in deep. “After the attempted coup on her coronation, I am glad that she was able to defend herself. The men there tried to murder her without even giving her a chance, in an attempt to take power for themselves…”

“For everyone!” Someone shouted from the back.

“For themselves,” Jakob corrected. Angry mutters silenced him, and he looked around, suddenly nervous.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen.” Canterwright clapped Jakob on the back. Jakob jumped, fearful. He had not heard the lord approach him from behind. But Canterwright flashed him another smile, and looked around.

“We value all opinions. Even from tax collectors, right Jakob?”

“Even from fellow people of the Valley…” Jakob said. “I’m neighbors with all of you. And I stand with Viola Konstantin.”

“As do we all,” Canterwright said. “We just need a venue to air our grievances. Since the countess has closed court, it has been harder to get in contact with her.”

“And that shall change soon.” Jakob said. he stood up, and nodded to everyone. “To any man who has disagreements with the countess, be here tomorrow at nine. I shall personally escort you to the countess myself. She will hear your words, and try to make your life better.”

Canterwright chuckled. “You hold that much power over the countess, tax collector?”

“I hold no power over the countess,” Jakob said. “But I know her method of ruling. She will listen. I can guarantee that the same way I guarantee the rising of the sun.”

With nothing else to say, Jakob got up and left.

Canterwright laughed aloud, turning to the crowd. “It looks like someone is a bit too infatuated with our leader, eh lads?”

There was laughter, but it was mixed. The crowd of men hushed, suddenly unsure. Would someone make them a guarantee like that without meaning it? A few made plans to be at the tavern the next morning, just in case.

Canterwright ordered another round for the tavern. That got spirits up immediately, and conversation turned back to the usual rumor-mongering. Their fear was gone, as so many of the words and promises would be in the morning.

Canterwright sat in his usual seat in the back, and settled into his own drink. Another man sat down next to him.

“You’re needed upstairs.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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