Season 4, Episode 2
Written by Tof Eklund
Read by Tawn Krakowski
“All I am saying,” huffed Master Chef Markus, “is that there’s been talk of surrender. I haven’t encouraged it.”
“You might do a bit more than ‘not encourage,’ Markus,” replied Housekeeper Thomasina. “You tolerate too much, you do.”
I cleared my throat. Marcus and Thomasina would snipe at each other all day if I let them.
“Keelin,” I asked, “how widespread are these sentiments?”
“Ehh, it’s not good, Milady. Everyone feels the noose tightening around their necks.”
“The nobles seem resolute,” I said. “I expected they would crack first.”
“They’re stuck,” replied Lily. She’d been pacing back and forth like an angry cat, but now she turned toward me. “They’ll face the axe for sure if we’re taken.”
Keelin nodded. “Whichever lords hold the castle, they’ll want their cooking and cleaning done for them. Punishing the staff would be like whipping the furniture.”
“The same might not be true for us,” said Thomasina, her attention still on Chef Markus. “Anyone associated with the Regent will be a target.”
“Thomasina,” he replied, then stopped and swallowed. “Housekeeper, allow me to remind you that I was only reporting that my staff are discontent.”
“Discontent?” said Fallon, my bookkeeper. “We’re all doomed.”
Fallon had been drinking hard again, and was quickly deteriorating into uselessness.
“Rogur,” I turned to the Stablemaster, “how are you and your crew doing?”
“We’re just worried about the horses,” he replied in a glum monotone.
“Well, I think that concludes our business for today,” I said, rising off of that Goddess-blighted uncomfortable Regent’s seat. “Ow!”
“Yelena?” Lily’s voice rose in concern as she ran to my side.
“It’s just my ankles, Lily,” I said.
My ankles had swollen up in the past few days, the latest offensive in my body’s campaign to make me suffer every symptom of pregnancy known to womankind.
Lily was helping me out of the throne room when a wild figure came half-running, half tumbling in. Her hands and feet were bare, and more shocking than that, her head was uncovered, auburn hair flying all about her.
Chef Markus nearly fell over backwards trying to avoid contact with this taboo spectacle. By Thrycaen standards, it would have scarcely been more shocking if she had been completely naked.
It took me a moment to recognize this madwoman: it was Lady Dycius.
“Lady Regent!” she screeched.
She hurled herself at me, and I saw the tangles in her unkempt hair whipping around with perfect clarity, as one does sometimes when facing death. Dycius’ hands were close in by her stomach, and I couldn’t tell if she held a blade. I raised my arms to ward off the blow, too shocked to do anything else.
The members of the servant’s council reacted in various useless ways. Markus tripped over his own feet and fell, Rogur blanched and stepped back, Keelin screamed, Fallon lurched forward gracelessly, and Thomasina just glared. But Lily, small as she was, sprung from my side and tackled Dycius, wrestling her to the floor.
“Let go of me!” Dycius shouted as Lily grappled with her, “I have vital news for Regent Yelena!”
Guards arrived, hands on the hilts of their swords. A quick inspection revealed that Dycius was unarmed. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“Hold,” I commanded the guards. “Lily, you can release her.”
Lily, her own hair peeking out of a cap that had been pulled askew, turned to look at me but did not let go.
“Stay close,” I said, “but I do not think Lady Dycius meant me harm, did you, my Lady?”
Dycius ceased struggling abruptly. “No. I…I was a bit excited.”
Lily snorted at that.
“Lily,” I said, “let her up. The rest of you,” I made a sweeping gesture, taking in the guards and the Council, “get out.”
As the room cleared, I returned to my hard chair. Dycius stood and began smoothing her dress, though not without a couple of nervous twitches.
When it was just the three of us, Dycius glanced at Lily, then shot me a pleading look.
“No,” I said. “She stays. You can tell me anything you have to say in front of her.”
“You are so strong,” Dycius said, in an almost childlike tone. I scanned her face for mockery, but saw instead that she was riveted upon me, intent in a way I found unsettling. “Soon, we will all have to be strong.”
“I do not have time for dancing, Dycius,” I said. “What do you mean?”
“The army is close enough now for us to communicate with mirrors,” she said. “I just spoke to my husband, or someone else who has mastered the code.”
“He told me to inform those loyal to King Nestor to prepare themselves.”
“Prepare for what? Sabotage?”
“That just confirms what we expected. They plan an assault.”
“There’s more. He said there would be a signal.”
“A distraction, then,” I said. “What is the signal? We can use this against them.”
“He would not tell me. I think he does not completely trust me,” she leaned forward and grinned or grimaced, pulling back her lips and baring her teeth.
“That doesn’t make sense. Why send the message, without the signal?”
“He said the signal would be obvious, and that we would not have to wait long. I asked for more detail, and he said no. I demanded he explain, and he would not, so I told him to go fuck himself in his own behind and that I’d piss on his corpse.”
“What?” I raised my voice. “You might as well have said that you were spying for me!”
My teeth squeaked as I clenched my jaw. I had a sudden urge to call the guards back and have them throw her in the dungeon.
“You have lost your wits,” I grated.
“No, you don’t understand,” she said softly, “I get it now. We are all going to die, so we are free. You have freed us all.”
“Dycius,” I spoke slowly, “I do not wish to die.”
“No, of course not,” she replied, her voice even more far-away. “We must live as if it were possible to live, as if there could be a world without chains. Then, when we die, we will shame the cowards with our honesty.”
Lady Dycius flung out her arms, her bare fingers clawing at the empty air. Lily jumped at the sudden motion, then stopped and shook her head.
“Every bond must be broken!” Dycius’ voice rose into a wail. “Burn the ropes and shatter the vessels! No more! No more shall we be their meat!”
Then, to my shock and horror, Lady Dycius convulsed, shaking like a rag doll in a dog’s mouth, and collapsed to the floor.
© 2013 Copyright Tof Eklund
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