Story for the Day: The Election -- Part 1 #NaNoWriMo
While Frewyn is a constitutional monarchy, the crown sometimes does hold municipal elections. Erieaneann, the Frewyn territory in Gallei, recently voted to become a permanent part of the kingdom, and while the result of the election was almost unanimous, there were some who were not so enthusiastic about the result.
Those who had lived in the annex for the last few years had been given the same liberties that all Frewyns enjoyed, and there perhaps, not to be disparaging, was the difference. Now every Galleisian in and around Erieneann was clamouring for Frewyn citizenship, and though the current Galleisianking was a good man with civil disposition and fair principles, the edacity and cruelty of the knights and lords, the unmitigated supremacy with which they governed, was something no king without a conviction to protect his people could vanquish. The people of Gallei were still suffering, and while Uscen and Gallia had returned and had proven themselves to be kindly and beneficent, those who had learned to govern by way of repression would not relinquish the herolatry they had created. The people were dissenting, and they were rebelling in the only way they could: if remaining Galleisian was to remain under the adjuration of officious lords, they would be Galleisian no longer. It was recusancy run mad in a kingdom that was in desperate want of social reform, and instead of amending their doctrines and expanding their rights to those whose birthright was freedom, the peerage of Gallei were pulling the reins. There would be a rebellion at last, and Alasdair tried to acquit himself his compunction and reconcile himself to the notion that he was only giving the people of the annex what they wanted, and if he should be pressed to annul the results of the first election and formally return the annex to Gallei, there would be an immediate upheaval, one which, he could not but own, he had helped create.
Here was a heavy sigh, and Alasdair went to the kitchen, to sit at the table and welter in silence, to deliciate in the view of the far field under the power of early morning, and ruminate over his tea and toast while considering matters of a more moderate hue, like introducing legislation that would make Count Rosse’s new codpiece a punishable offense worthy of imprisonment.
Martje was still in her room with Shayne and Maggie, and as there was no one else about in the kitchen and Searle was in the servants’ quarters, managing about breakfast for Rosamound and Aldus, Alasdair filled the kettle and fired the range, pleased at any rate to be allowed to do something for himself without Searle or Martje insisting they do it for him. Why couldn’t the Galleisian king intervene? was the thought uppermost in Alasdair’s mind. Had he so little influence over his own lords? One decree in the House, signed and sealed by His Majesty, should settle the business, but he was too diffident a king, too lenient in his policies, too afraid to offend all the nobility to act. He was more worried about assassination than he was about securing the happiness and wellbeing of his people, and while the quiet and calculated elimination of kings was a celebrated pastime in Gallei, a determined and brazen king was all that Gallei needed to mend its injured society. The lords would lose, but that should be a loss on the right side, and Alasdair, pouring the water into his cup, praised his friends and allies in the Frewyn court, who would always act in favour of Frewyn as a whole when really pressed. He even had a kind word for Count Rosse, who, though disagreeable and victim of habilatory oversight, did not treat his servants with half the derision and cruelty that the Galleisian nobility practiced with their servants and tenants.
The splendour of a clear morning, the aubade of blackbirds nesting in the nearby copse along the far field did something to assuage Alasdair’s agitations, but as he leaned back in his chair and sipped his tea, forviging all his anxieties and looking out at a sobering scene, Baronet Breandan appeared on the threshold, looking as apprehensive as Alasdair had previously felt.
“Breandan,” Alasdair announced, righting himself. “You’re here early.”
The Baronet made his polite bows. “I could say the same for you, sire,” was his quiet reply.
He seemed unlike himself; the bent brows of apprehension, the parted lips of silent agony besieged Alasdair’s heart, and Breandan approached, the usual good humour gone from his countenance, and Alasdair stood from his chair, his evil stars prevailing.
“Have we received a message from Rodkin?” Alasdair asked, his cheeks beginning to flush. “I didn’t hear Scolaigh Norrington’s horse come in—“
Breandan’s pursed lips and severe stares silenced him. A moment passed, and Breandan, with a hem and half a sigh, took something from his pocket. Alasdair glanced down, the Baronet was unfolding a sheet of paper, one that looked as though it had been torn from a roll at a printing press. Breandan exhaled and examined the sheet, and any hopes Alasdair harboured of the news being less severe than Breandan’s expression implied were all done away.
“What’s happened?” Alasdair demanded, every agitation returning.
Breandan turned the paper over and offered it to the king. It was the printoff of the morning’s copy of the Herald, the ink smudged from being pulled too soon from the press. “Cumhadh just handed this to me and charged me to show it to you,” said Breandan, in a dreadful hush. “I met him as I was coming in from the stables. He is just gone to Harold, to confirm the reports. Teague should be here soon, to tell you the first hand accounts of the news himself.”
“What news--?” was Alasdair instinctive reply, but his eye followed the headline printed across the top of the paper, and his heart instantly seized. “By the Gods…” he breathed, his hand moving unconsciously toward his mouth. He held up the paper and read the headline again. “Is this true, Breandan? Has this really happened?”
“It seems so, sire,” said Breandan gravely.
There was a terrible pause. How could this have happened…? was the question uppermost in Alasdair’s mind, a question which, though Alasdair knew the answer, would not be silenced. He read the headline again and again, Alasdair’s conscience acknowledging what his heart must accept despite his tendency to wish for good. He persevered, however, and difficult though it was, he read through the first few lines of the story belonging to the headline, but it was too much even for him to endure. He stopped, banishing goodwill and lamenting false hope, and he returned to the beginning of the story again, desperate to find some meaning in such evil. He continued reading the story, and he sank into his chair, clutching the paper in his hands, starring at the printed words without reading them. How could this have happened… Galleisians Attack Their Own Outside Church… How could this have happened… but Alasdair could not but be aware of how it had happened. He mantled over the paper, reading the beginning of the story again, with his head in his hand, his eyes low, his sighs immutable:
Late last night, two men were attacked outside the Galleisian Church in the Frewyn annex of Erieannean. The two young men, a Frewyn, age twenty, and a Galleisian, age twenty one, were leaving the Galleisian church after having volunteered to help sort donations pouring into the annex from Amene and other Frewyn municipalities. They left the church after evening service, and they had nearly reached the high street when they were stopped by a crowd of Galleisians men. Reports claim that two of the men were holding weapons, one holding a wooden plank and the other brandishing a kitchen knife. The Galleisian mob approached the two men coming from the church, shouting that they would not allow their society to be infiltrated by what they termed “heathen Frewyn values”. The two young men turned to run, but the crowd overpowered them and took out their growing frustrations on the two young men, who were said to be “practicing their newfound Frewyn freedoms”. The two men are reported to be romantically involved with one another, and some witnesses claim they were seen leaving the church holding hands. The Galleisian mob beat both men and left them at the steps of the church---
Alasdair could read no more; his fingers crushed the sides of the paper, and his arms shook. “Why did they have to do this?” said he, sibilating through clenched teeth. “I understand the socio-economic situation in Erieannean is difficult right now, but hurting anyone or blaming anyone for it will do nothing. It’s natural that things will be difficult for the annex for the next few weeks. We’re still in the process of having Erieannean amended--” He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. “What happened to the victims?”
“Fortunately, a few people from the church rescued them,” said Breandan, with a weak smile. “They were brought to the infirmary for immediate care, no doubt another one of the Frewyn Freedoms these Galleisian men do not approve. They are expected to make a full recovery.” Breandan glanced at the paper and then at the king. “My sentiments are very much the same as yours, sire. I cannot understand the reasons for their violence, however justified they might feel. These two young men were doing nothing at all wrong, and yet others felt that their desire to express their preferences has somehow harmed their own—at least, that is what they must believe, if they felt incited to act upon something they deemed to be--” He peered at the paper and read, “—heathen Frewyn values, whatever that might consist of.” A pause here, and Breandan’s brows furrowed, a pang wrenching his heart. “Had either of the two victims been my son—“
“Vyrdin would have killed the whole crowd,” said Alasdair quietly.
“That much is certainly true, sire, but had the victim been Brigdan, or had you been the victim of this irrational behaviour—“ Breandan sighed, and pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose. It was useless to reason; there was no logic in the case, all sense and understanding seemed suspended here.