Viola loved the common folk, in her particular way.

She loved their straightforward nature. They wanted to kill her, and end a tyranny that they had been told was real. And when presented with the facts, or better yet her facts, they turned on the true villains. Bound those they once called master, led them through the forests, and dumped them upon Viola’s doorstep.

Viola ensured that each member of the force was duly paid for their troubles, and food was sent to their families. Other promises, such as looking at new tax policies, and perhaps a knighthood, were talked about. The countess might even grant them.

And when the new force was persuaded to leave, the real work began.

Nalus stood by Viola’s side in the court room. She addressed the kitchen staff, the gardeners. The maids, the soldiers. Thanked everyone for their service, especially in such a trying time. And promised that nothing like the abuse they had to endure would ever happen again. A new day was dawning, and they would be the true force behind the throne.

“Pretty words,” Nalus said as the staff left.

“I meant them,” Viola said. after a moment, she conceded “mostly.”

Nalus grunted. “How long did you know of the coup? Really?”

“Since the ball.” Viola said. “I had several long conversations with some soldiers, and found that they were getting several large payments. Bribes that seemed unnatural. Even the slightest investigation started turning over some truly disturbing plans. After that, my countermeasures started to fall into place.”

Nalus nodded. “The people.”

“The nerve of these nobles.” Viola said. “Or better yet, the stupidity. That pretty words alone could jumpstart a revolution. There was no force, no economy behind any of their platitudes.”

“While you had helped the real people, the salt of the earth.” Nalus marveled at her. “All while appearing the silly noblewoman in the wrong job.”

Viola giggled. “Oh, you know, Nalus.”

“The treemen, the guards. Was Sienna a part of the plan?”

Viola laughed. “Sienna can never be planned for, Nalus. She is so…innocent. So good, so willing to do anything for the grand plan. A true self-starter.”

“A dangerous thing.” Nalus warned.

Viola placed a hand on his cheek.

“I am the only dangerous thing. Now, let us see what the traps have caught.”

Nalus chilled. “Now, countess?”

“No time like the present.” Viola said. She got up, and led the way.

“Do you know why the people were willing to betray me?” Viola asked.

“Not at all.”

“It’s because they didn’t know me.” Viola said.

“That’s what all leaders say.”

“And for the most part they are right.” Viola turned at the edge of the throne room, and paused. They were going somewhere she had actually never been, no matter how much Vlad had threatened it.


“Close by,” The counselor said. “Behind the red tapestry.”

Viola frowned, and pulled back the tapestry. A wooden panel stared back at her. She rapped her hand against it, and smiled. “Ah, Konstantin manse.”

Nalus pushed the panel away, revealing the stairwell down.

“See, Nalus?” Viola said. “What we do not know, we view with suspicion. And to know something cannot just be told. We have to experience that something is not dangerous, powerful yet kind. Being told of one’s compassion is worthless. It has to be felt.”

“And you couldn’t simply bring this knowledge to the nobles?” Nalus asked.

“The nobles knew me.” Viola looked towards the cages, and the people within them. Her smile widened.

“Or at least, they thought they did.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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