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Rage - Part 2


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The tax collector brushed himself off, and seeming quite unperturbed at having been decked by his son – perhaps something he was accustomed to in his line of work – straightened up, took a step back as if readying himself for another blow, and tilted his head down ever-so slightly in greeting.


“I am Rodrick Stonewater, charged by the owner of these lands to collect what is owed in taxes for the season past. As I just explained to this…man here, you must render what is owed now, or be evicted from the premises before sundown.” He took two steps back and a nervous look at Thressal while speaking those last words, but to his credit did not flinch.


Anthrage sighed but relaxed, if his son hadn’t struck him at that, he would not do so again. “My good man, I know we are late in paying the 50 crowns owed, but Lord Grey and I are old companions, and he-“ Stonewater cut him off with a dismissive hand motion and declared  “Lord Grey is no longer owner of this land, you are now a direct tenant of the King…and it is 100 crowns, not 50, that is owed.”


Now it was his son who moved to hold him back, though it was not necessary. The King. The bloody King. Indeed that is what he was called by most, though never to his face…The Bloody King got that name when he was crowned, in the middle of a battlefield, with the previous king’s crimson dripping off his white Knight’s armor. Anthrage had seen it with his own eyes, and was no more pleased about it then than he was now.


Finnius Grey, while very much a good man, was also very much a bad gambler. The worst gambler in fact that Anthrage had ever seen. Not only did he lose, often, but he lost in ways that defied not just description, but the imagination. Grey had once bet Anthrage that he would lose his next bet, and somehow won, thereby losing. If he weren’t also a notorious drunk and prone to forgetting what he’d done the night before, Finnius would probably have hanged himself years ago. Perhaps he finally had.


Anthrage sighed again. There was no point in trying to argue with this man, and he would not let his children see him do so. “I see.” he said evenly, stepping closer to the still nervous man, only then noticing his armed escort, fully armored and ahorse, a dozen yards distant in the shade of the great willow across the road. “Well you shall have those crowns then, and my thanks to King Cawlis for the continued use of this fine land.”


Anthrage gestured for him to wait, and went back into the house. As he passed the kitchen on the way to the cellar, his saw his daughter sitting at the table, eyes firmly upon him. “Is everything alright father?” she asked with atypical concern in her voice. He shot her an easy smile and answered without stopping “Of course Morg, everything is completely and utterly f-“…“-ucked!” he finished, out of earshot down in the cellar. The bloody king and his endless greed was completely and utterly…the thought died there, as he opened the chest hidden in the floor, and saw what was inside.


There was indeed 100 crowns, and half again that amount, in the small carved wooden box he held open in his hands. A handful of smooth white arrowheads, carved in bone, a few scrolls, two Guinecean shells that he’d won in a card  game from Lord Gray back when he was just Finnius…and one necklace.


His wife’s necklace. He’d opened this chest perhaps 2 dozen times since he placed it there, but somehow never noticed the necklace before today. He last remembered seeing it around Alessia’s neck, the day he’d given it to his wife, the day she told him she was pregnant, and he told her they must marry. The chain was pure electrum, strong and light, the color of his wife’s hair, and the gemstone, a large blue sapphire, the color of her eyes.


He thought a moment of that day, when he’d given it to her, the look in her eyes, and recalled the look in another woman’s eyes, on the day when he came into possession of the necklace. The day their new king was crowned…the bloody king.

He grabbed all the crowns and left the rest behind, returned the chest to it’s hiding place and ran up the stairs and out to the waiting tax collector. The 2 men at arms were on this side of the road now, on foot and at his side, looking like they’d rather be anywhere else but where they were.


“Rodrick Stonewater” Anthrage proclaimed dramatically, handing him two small pouches of coin, “the king’s due. Long may he sit upon the throne.” The taxman seemed taken aback, though whether it was by the apparently unexpected paying of the taxes or the well wishes to the king he could not say. Perhaps both, for the king was about as well liked as he was generous and forgiving, which was to say not very much at all.


The armored men were already walking across the road, eager to get back to the barracks or brothel from which they’d been dragged at this early hour, and probably relieved that their presence had not been required afterall. Anthrage was a reasonable, measured man these days, but his reputation from his time spent in the Dregs many years past was of someone quite different altogether.


Stonewater was on his horse now as well, and with a curt nod, joined the others on the road, leaving Anthrage and his family to their modest cottage and whatever their apparently dull lives were filled with. Thressal gave his father a look of disgust and stormed off across the orchard next to the house towards the deepwood, whether to avoid his father’s scolding or the temptation to express his disgust he did not know.

Edited by Anthrage
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