Story for the Day: Taxes
While Prince Draeden's greatest concern is his next meal, all Aldus' anxiety is for the precious carpet at his feet and the stacks of tax collection notices on his desk. No one enjoys paying taxes, but in Frewyn they are essential in providing the kingdom with all its social services, and though some escape paying by working illegally, the king is never remiss in his payment.
Aldus looked grave and was about to say an obedient “Yes, Your Majesty,” when Aghatha suddenly appeared on the threshold and burst through Aldus’ submission with an “Oh, Majesty. I didn’t know you were here. Was it you what called for me, or did Mr. Craudhliegh ring the bell?”
“Something of a joint effort, I believe,” said the king. “There has been a bit of an accident, Aghatha.”
“Accident, Majesty?” Aghatha raised a brow as the king pointed to the stain on the carpet. Aldus’ immaculate habits would not have allowed him to be the destroyer of such a treasure. She was thoughtful whilst her mind rambled through the long list of possible culprits, but the broken pencil on Aldus’ desk, the frayed nerves, the king’s apologetic look betrayed the identity of the defiler. “Was His Highness here?”
|Aldus' horror: Draeden stepping on his carpet|
Dorrin made a grim nod.
“I’ll get the soapwort.”
She turned directly and began walking back to the servants’ quarter when the king, saying his hurried goodbyes and thanks to Aldus, joined her by the way.
“Thank you for coming so quickly,” the king whispered, sidling her. “I thought I was going to have to call Cneighsea if Aldus should have been made to suffer any longer. We must find Searle and tell him to come and have the carpet examined for any fraying or damage.”
“Pardon me, Majesty, but that stain looks like just a bit of mud. Sure’n it’ll come right out with-“
The king’s raised hand silenced her, and Dorrin said quietly, “I’m pandering to Aldus’ nerves.”
A coy smile and a “I take your meanin’, Majesty,” was enough to secure Searle’s appearance at least twice in the course of the ensuing day, and Dorrin was satisfied.
“Thank you, Aghatha. If he doesn’t see Searle in the treasury, our taxes will never be allocated.”
“Good for those who refuse to pay them, I should say.”
Dorrin laughed. “I pity those who think they can get away with it. There are Tailibhannach and other workers whom I can never account for, but I pity the merchant who has an address. A letter from Aldus means terror to any man who receives one. The Royal Guard should never like to be put to for such a task, but I think Aldus receives a secret thrill in knowing that two mountainous men are being deployed to collect the treasurer’s share.” He exhaled and shook his head. “I cannot understand why so many dread tax collection. It isn’t as though the king or the treasurer is taking anything away and using Frewyn’s well-merited money for themselves. All the money returns to them by way of social services. I grant you that not every king has been as fair with the treasury as he ought, but even the royal family must pay taxes from their estate earnings. My father’s estate has long been deserted, and I must still pay property taxes for owning the land.”
“But, if I might say, Majesty,” said Aghatha shyly, “it do seem unfair that the king has to pay a tax.”
“Does it,” said Dorrin, mildly amused. “How so?”
“Well, you don’t live on your own land, you don’t get a pay for your time in reign, and you don’t benefit from any of the social services that the rest of us receive because you never leave the keep. It don’t seem fair to tax a man who don’t make anythin’, if you understand me. So, why do the king pay a tax?”
“Because if I don’t, I’ll receive a letter from Aldus.”
Aghatha laughed and mounted the stair, and the king followed and smiled to himself.
“My compensation, Aghatha, for my time on the throne,” he said as they gained the entrance to the gallery, “is the peace in knowing that Frewyn is well-cared for, and as unforgiving and particular as Aldus is, I must admit that without him and his detailed calculations, Frewyn might not receive more than half the attention and adoration She deserves.”
“Oh, I don’t mind the treasurer myself, Your Majesty. He’s a decent sort of man, and sure there’s no better for his sort of work, but I think his hat might be on a mite too tight, if you take my meanin’.”
“I do,” said the king, his eyes crinkling with smile lines. “We must forgive him, Aghatha. I think his stern temper and unforgiving person must be allowed, considering how much work he does by himself.”
“Aye. I always wondered that he didn’t have no assistant to help him.”
“He’s very judicious, perhaps even overly so. Many a time have I offered him the opportunity to avail himself of an assistant, but he will not hear of it, even from me.” The corners of the king’s lips curled into a faint smile. “I think he fears an assistant might continually scuff the carpet.”
Aghatha stifled a giggle with the back of her hand.
“All his power is in his tightly fitted hat. Were it any looser, I don’t believe he would be able to work as diligently as he does.”
“No, Your Majesty. I suppose not.”
Warm smiles reigned over their conversation as they went in quest of Searle together, and on their way to the servants’ quarter they passed the kitchen, where sat Draeden, who was just being served a most liberal portion of boiled oats and brined meat.