Viola turned towards the door, eyes alight. Then her gaze softened, and the magic dissipated.


Gregor Petrovich, all of four, stood in the door. He clutched at a small blanket, rubbing his eyes. He looked in the door, up at the grownups.

“Viola?” He blinked a few times. “M’had a bad dream.”

“The countess…” Viola rushed past the protesting Nalus. She had the blanket of her own off in an instant, and wrapped around the young boy.

Viola tutted, securing the blanket. “Gregor, what are you doing out of bed?”

“Bad dream.” He repeated, and wandered further in. “Aunt Nadia was with the baby, so looked for you.” The boy looked up at Nalus, and scowled. “You two were fighting.”

“No,” Viola said. “We were arguing. Nalus and I have arguments a lot, and they can get very spirited.”

“Looked like fighting.”

“It can seem that way.” Nalus bowed his head in acknowledgment. “The countess and I are…opinionated about how the Valley should be run. But we both would never dare let such words hurt each other.”

Gregor nodded. “Cuz she would kick your butt.”

Nalus would agree, but would never admit it.

Viola laughed, and hugged Gregor close. “Stay with me a while, Gregor. I’ll tell a few stories, and we’ll see if that can’t have you asleep.”

She sat back down in her chair, and hummed as Gregor struggled into her lap. She stroked his hair a few times, admiring the soft quality. Her hair dresser would die for such material to work with.

But now, on to stories. Wait…first. She looked up at Nalus, who remained standing.

“Nalus, why don’t you go off to bed first?”

“Countess, I would like…”

“We’re done for today, Nalus.” She smiled, and clapped her hands over Gregor’s ears.  “Though if you want to throw one last shot at my legacy, I would not say no.”

Nalus’ eyes glinted. “I am just trying to help, countess.”

Viola nodded. “I know. But I always wonder if this is how you helped Vlad when he ruled.”

“Vlad listened to me.”

Viola cocked her head to one side. “And how did that work out?”

Nalus left before he said something he would regret.

“That’s more like it.” Viola said to Gregor. “We got rid of the mean old codger, and now can have our fun.”

She closed her eyes, and smiled. “Now, what tale do we want to hear of? Perhaps the Konstant, and the rise of the Valley? Or several folk stories that I swear people have told me are true. Fairy tales seem to lose their magic in the face of truth.”

She opened her eyes, and noticed that Gregor’s face was scrunched up. He opened his mouth, then squished it shut again. He thought, and thought again, and could not come up with a good answer.

“Gregor?” She asked. “Do you have something you want to say?”

“No.” He replied too quickly.

She hugged him close. “Okay. But if you do, you know that you can tell me anything. Or ask me anything.”

“You mean it?”


Gregor hugged her tight, burying his face into the blanket. He said something, muffled by the blanket.

“I’m sorry?”

Gregor looked up, tears streaming down his face. “Did you kill my dad?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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