Yoric stood before the crowd, and pointed at her.

“You, vile witch, are removed from power. You shall stand trial for your crimes, and hang for the evil you have perpetrated upon the Valley.”

“Stand trial and then hang?” Viola said. “Why have the expense of the first, if the latter is already decided?”

A villager screamed, and launched himself at the countess. Viola danced one way, and then another, avoiding the clumsy strikes with a garden hoe. She shook her head, sighing. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to have a conversation.”

The man screamed again. He swung again, desperately trying to kill her. Viola struck his wrist, knocking the farm implement from his hands.

“I cannot understand, or rebut screams,” Viola said. she picked up the farm implement, and set it aside. “Please return to your friends, and I will hear you.”

But the crowd did not want to hear her. They wanted to tear her apart. The nobles stood in the midst of the townsfolk. Whispering rumors, lies. The power she held, how it was going to hurt them. Kill them. If they did not stop her.

“Marya?” Viola frowned, and looked deep into the crowd. “Is that you?”

An elder woman stood tall. Her figure was hidden behind her apron. Her dark eyes looked away in shame, recognized. “Yes, countess.”

Viola smiled. “How is your son?”

“Well,” Marya said. “The doctor set the leg, and will be back next week to inspect it.”

“Very good, very good.” Viola scanned the crowd, and nodded to a man clutching a pair of garden shears. “And Yuri, looks like you must have just been preparing to return Boris’ shears at the manse. Does he enjoy his gardening duties?”

“Very much…countess.” The man muttered.

“I know what you’re doing, countess.” Yoric said.

Viola cocked her head to one side. “Yoric? Is that you?”

He spluttered. His fist shook, but then regained composure. “So, your good graces are only for those who know you. The rest of us can only hope for crumbs.”

Viola shrugged. “Or drop by.”


Viola bowed her head in assent. “That I will take responsibility for. I have been remiss in holding court. Too many new duties for a young girl, especially when the nobles are clogging up your time.”

Canterwright could not believe it. She was stopping everything. All of his plans, torn apart because she had had a chance to speak.

He needed to stop her. Get her off-course. Reeling. He looked around, trying to signal to one of his men.

“Tree-whore!” One of the noblewomen shouted.

Canterwright groaned, and cursed silently. Not that. Do not invoke that.

“Hmmm?” Viola looked at the woman. “Lady Olivet? Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“You’re a perversion!” Olivet shouted. “Mating with those…trees! We saw everything at the ball.”

“Did you?” Viola asked. “You were in my room? You saw the treemen crawl out of my window?”

“She admits it!” Olivet said.

“I admit nothing of the sort.” Viola retorted. “I spoke with and charmed a magical creature.”

Her eyes narrowed. “But, as we are talking about the ball…Sten!”

A young man stuck his head out of a window, and pointed at Olivet. “When did you see Viola, lady?”

Olivet paled, her hand going to her face.

“Was it when you demanded I join you in the gardens? When you told me to remove my clothes?”

This couldn’t be happening. Canterwright stared in horror. Somehow she had planted them. All her allies, already scattered amongst the crowd. Months of planning, and she had seen through it all. How?

Olivet was trying to find someplace to hide. Sten was graphic, and yet kind. He never mentioned actions, though the crowd knew what he had been forced to do. Several mothers looked to their own children, thinking what they must have done in these nobles’ employ.

Viola remained stoic. Do not show emotion, no triumph. This was a terrible moment, bittersweet and cathartic. Victory will be claimed, in calm response.


copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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