‘I’ll need you to disseminate this information quickly, Bruce,’ I said.
He lifted his gaze to meet my own. We both knew the implications behind the message.
My people had become restless; when I toured the provinces, the feeling emanating from them was almost tangible, visible, like rustling leaves in a tree. I could hear the collective murmuring, buzzing, after I’d moved from one group to the next. They showed deference still, of course. Bowing and curtseying as I approached. To neglect this would result in far worse circumstances than what they were experiencing now.
As their queen, I had little choice but to restrict food and freedoms. A rogue faction had caused a fracas about four months ago. Something about overthrowing the monarchy to allow the common people to have a voice. Bruce advised, at the time, to shut down the regions under my rule with harsh limitations.
‘Ma’am, you have to punish them all for the failings of a few,’ he’d said solemnly.
‘I suppose you’re right. But it’s not my style. That was more Father’s way to reign.’
‘I’m afraid that you’ll have a revolt on your hands, Ma’am, if you follow a softer line.’
He was right. I knew that.
My soldiers had captured the band of rogues and placed them in the almost-forgotten dungeons under the castle. The stealth operation took less than ten days. The rest of my subjects were ordered to stay in their homes. Food and water would be distributed daily and all farming duties ceased for the time being.
It worked for nearly three months. Mostly, my people were satisfied with the measures.
Now, the level of dissatisfaction and distrust from an increasing majority was alarming. Word had reached my soldiers of numerous small groups, planning to storm the castle and free the men held captive. Following that, if successful, they planned to overthrow me.
Bruce took the leaflets I held out to him, and, with a slight nod, he left my quarters.
I rested on my chaise longue. Placed my hand across my eyes to decrease the pain of the light and the sound of thumping footsteps in my head.
The footsteps grew louder.
I stood up, moved to the window. From my vantage point in the castle, I stared in horror as at least two hundred people approached from the west, still deep in the valley. They were chanting and armed with spears, sticks, guns. Whatever they could find.
On the castle side of the valley, Bruce and five soldiers trudged on foot towards the villages. They were blind to the advancing group, still hidden in the valley, yet would meet up with each other in minutes.
‘Bruce!’ I yelled from the window. My words were swallowed by the wind.
I turned away in fear and fright as Bruce, my loyal servant, and the soldiers were hopelessly outnumbered in a battle for rights that I had already granted. The leaflets—that stated house arrest was to cease immediately—scattered over the verdant, rolling hill, as Bruce and the foot soldiers were viciously attacked.
Too late. I was too late. I sank back onto my chaise longue and waited for my fate.