Rise of the Thrall Lord
The Life and Times of Klinkar Strakentir - Part 3
Two months had passed since that day. Klinkar had stayed in his “manor” and tried to make sense of it. He had sent couriers to his brothers in Dunwynn, but their replies were simply, “You’ve fallen out of favor.” He sent couriers to other friends he had in Dunwynn who said the same, but also added that Ignar and Fafnar were very close with the Duke now. That meant that Ignar and Fafnar may not be able to help him lest they too fall from the Duke’s favor.
Klinkar looked out the window to see the men and women working in the breadgrain field. He saw the sheep in their pastures and the pens for the other animals. He saw the shrines to the gods of fertility and weather, not in the town as was usual for temples and such, but in the fields, closer to their work. He saw the peace and tranquility of it all. It was then that Klinkar knew that today would be different from the previous two months. He had a headache.
Klinkar descended the stairs to find Sofna putting out his breakfast. Breakfast was always some of what they’d had the previous night that was left over fried up all together in a sort of pancake. Sofna would always add something to it, though to give it a different flavor. It might be a spice or an herb. Sometimes it was cream or tea. Yesterday it had been honey. Today, keeping in the spirit of his mood, it was vinegar.
Vilcomb was already waiting with an anxious look on his face. Klinkar wondered if perhaps someone had sneezed in public and Vilcomb was looking to make an example of him. Or perhaps someone had referred to the town as Berenholm, as they had for the previous forty years, instead of Strakentir, the new name the locals themselves had given it to welcome him. It occurred to Klinkar that Vilcomb was as out of place here as he was, only didn’t have the slightest idea how to cope with it.
“Klinkar,” Vilcomb said by way of greeting. It was a mistake he made every morning, but with his headache, Klinkar pounced.
“Are you my mother that you address me by my given name?!” Klinkar’s growl rose to a near shout. “You will address me as ‘Baron’ or ‘My Lord’ or I will have you installing a cobblestone road from here to Bendenwood!”
“My lord,” Vilcomb corrected himself and was obviously shaken by the ferocity of the reprimand. “A bard has come to town and he is causing trouble.”
“A bard?” Klinkar responded tonelessly.
“Yes,” Vilcomb continued obviously agitated. “He’s singing songs against the Duke and you. We heard him from a distance, but when we arrived to arrest him, he was gone. The townsfolk are hiding him.”
“You wanted to arrest an entertainer?” Klinkar continued in his toneless voice. “The people of this town entertain themselves with shearing festivals and quilting bees. A bard coming to town has to be the most exciting thing here since Lord Beren bred a black and white checkerboard sheep.”
“My lord, I believe it is the same bard that the Duke has set a bounty on,” Vilcomb was playing his ace.
“Vilcomb, the Duke chose to elevate a bard to public enemy status. That decision has made that bard and his songs all the more popular and famous. I will not do the same thing here. A bard is beneath my station to notice. If he chooses to entertain for me, I will reward him according to the quality of his performance. If he chooses to hide and sing in the shadows, I will not follow him there. Do you understand?”
“Yes. My lord,” Klinkar could see all of Vilcomb’s dreams of chasing the rogue bard through the countryside, of breaking down the doors of farmers thought to be protecting him, and of the eventual capture and praise from the Duke disappearing from his eyes. He thought Vilcomb might cry.
“Now, Vilcomb, do you have anything else for me to consider?”
“The townspeople are resisting the taxes. They don’t want their animals to be shipped off to be slaughtered for a bunch of ‘horse-chickens’ to eat.”
“Have you explained to them the importance of the Sky Knight project to Dunwynn. If Berenholm …”
“The town is called Strakentir now.”
Klinkar had had enough. He got up and strode to the corner where he had hung his belt and he unsheathed his sword. He then marched through the house and out the front door. He continued to march with Vilcomb and two of the guards following him. A couple of farmers and their children saw him walking their way and they also began to follow him after he passed. Klinkar just stared straight ahead and walked with a long stride and a sense of purpose. The morning sun in his eyes only made his headache worse, but Klinkar enjoyed it as he felt it appropriate. As he approached the sign, he saw a goat chewing on the burlap bag. Klinkar liked the feel of his sword in his hand as he approached the sign and the goat. Klinkar raised his sword and stabbed down. The goat shrieked and ran away at top speed as Klinkar stabbed and cut away the burlap bag to reveal a beautifully carved sign with an ornate “B” stating that this was the town of Berenholm.
“This town will not be called Strakentir,” Klinkar yelled to all present, “until it is worthy of that name. Your taxes will be paid because the Duke commands it, and you need no other reason than that! Do not presume to decide what is best for the Duchy of Dunwynn. The Duke serves as your protector. The price of a few sheep or pigs is nothing compared to the cost of the men that have spilled their blood defending you! Take this message around the town until all have heard it!”
With that, Klinkar turned and strode back to the manor without looking up, down, to the left or to the right.