“Torn between ignoring Swish and insisting that he return to his meal, I stood rooted like a tree, watching Nelgareth men approach and trying to read the expression on Poppa’s face.”
I walked around the long wooden table to reach my father’s side.
“What’s happening, Poppa?” I asked him quietly.
He pulled his shoulders back, cleared his throat. “I’m not sure, puppet, but rest you assured, I’ll take care of it. Stay behind me, lass.” he said, putting out his arm to shield me.
A surge of adrenaline made the blood dance in my veins. Poppa was nearing his eightieth year. His knees were rickety, his back curling from decades of harvesting and cultivating his land and animals. The land and animals that for eighty years he was unable to call his own by decree of Nelgareth ownership laws that were outdated, demeaning and, just plain wrong. Every cell in my body raged against Nelgareth rule – the Human King was a bloodsucker of a man, and his wife, a muddy bog to support him. Since his rule began ten years prior, at the surprise death of his father, Gavin Rainswater took the throne and his bratty, selfish, careless actions with him.
“I’m here,” I whispered to Poppa as two uniformed Nelgareth soldiers trotted up to our outdoor gazebo, their horses neighing at the humble smells of my homemade bread and vegetable stew.
“Hortensis Blythe,” the pointy-chinned soldier cooed at my father. “Your last yields were low and we’ve come to take what’s rightfully and lawfully ours.”
“My yields were not low, in fact,” Poppa replied, “They were measured and packaged as they always are to the milligram. You are mistaken.”
A high-pitched laugh escaped the other soldier’s fat face.
“Listen, old man, you owe the King more,” he pulled a slip of torn paper from a small pocket on his uniform. He brought the paper closer to his eyes and squinted. I couldn’t hold in a chuckle. This flatulence of a man couldn’t read!
His head snapped up and tilted. “Who stands behind you?”
My father put his hand up. “No one. A lowly servant peasant cook.” He was protecting me, and I didn’t want his protection.
“Show your face, peasant,” the soldier said.
I stepped forward from behind my father.
*Thank you to Jill S for this line prompt. And thank you Jillian for writing this stellar story!