“Torches!” The nobles shouted. “Pitchforks!”

All and more. The villagers were armed with anything they could get their hands on. It was time to overthrow the countess. And return the power to the people.

Never mind that the nobles were in charge. Never mind that the people had never been in charge. Viola was alone, and unnatural. And a woman. She should never have taken power in the first place.

All the while, the nobles made promises. They would return the Valley to the people. There would be tax relief. The fae would be thrown out, and borders sealed. No one need ever fear the will of a single magical creature ever again. One promise after another was made, with no regard as to feasibility, or how it would be done, or if it matched with reality.

Not that it would have mattered. The people believed them.

Sienna watched, helpless. Bound in the Serpent, watched over by the now-conscious bartender. She could not move, for fear that he would use the knife in his hands. She wanted to scream, wanted to plead for sanity. For reason, for the common folk to ask why the nobles were acting thus. But no one asked questions.

“We will storm the palace!” The nobles shouted. “The guard will not fight their own countrymen. We will overthrow the countess, and tear the manse down upon her.”

The crowd roared its approval. Five hundred strong, armed to the teeth. Bound together by a noble cause. How could they not prevail? Down with tyranny! Down with evil! Down with Viola!

“Charge!” Canterwright bellowed.

The village trembled. The villagers roared, and started to move. Until they realized that it was not their movement that caused the tremble.

The earth seemed to crack open. A pillar of ice shot out of the ground, just in front of the village. It soared into the air, hanging above the heads of everyone. The villagers and nobles stared, dumbstruck.

With a peal, the pillar burst apart. The shards shattered into ten thousand pieces, scattering to the ground. The villagers screamed, shielding their faces as harmless snow rained down on their heads.

“Hold fast!” Canterwright shouted. He shot an angry look at the nobles. Several had grabbed villagers, trying to use them as shields. They quickly regained their composure, and stood tall.

Canterwright turned towards the edge of town, in the direction of the manse. “She comes.”

She did. Not at the head of a great army, or any sort of delegation. Not with ice trailing before her to announce the coming of her glory. Instead, countess Viola rode in on her own horse. She wore her riding leathers, a simple shirt, and her sapphire necklace. Her hair was unbound, and she was smiling. This could have been any other day, riding through town.

Viola stopped at the edge of the crowd, and bowed her head to the crowd. She dismounted, and stood before the crowd, still smiling.

“Good morning, countrymen.” She looked straight at Canterwright. “I understand we have things to discuss?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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