Card Challenge: Day 81
Card Day 81: A hand holding a flaming torch, thrust out of choppy water.
“Freedom is what we seek today. My brother and sisters, too long we have allowed our human freedom to be curtailed in the name of the greater good. We have developed as a race that preserves itself, seeks its best interest, and is guided by the safety and nurturance of our community to continue our race. Freedom is equality. Freedom drives out fear. It is the fear by those in power that they may no longer lord over us that restricts our freedom. It is our own willingness to relinquish our God-given ability that allows them to stay in power while we suffer.
“King Wilfred knew this. That is why he entrusted us with such a huge responsibility. We stand at a great precipice today. Brothers and sisters, we can choose freedom. We can choose to rule ourselves, cast aside those who would tell us how to live, what to say, who to be, and what our worth is. Humanity is specially gifted with the freedom to choose our life, to reason, to act outside of the domain of primitive instinct. In the coming days, you will be given the choice. Will you choose the bit and saddle, continue to live in service of the chosen elite who lord it over you? Or will you stand with me and choose the dignity of human freedom to choose our own path in this world?
“You have the power to choose. Choose well, my friends.” Tasha stepped down from the hastily assembled podium. Her throat burned with the force of her words and her eyes felt like they were swimming. There had been so many people, so many faces turned to watch her. They were tired faces dressed in cheap rags; they were tired eyes carrying a life’s worth of stress. It was exhilarating and exhausting to speak that kind of passion into the world, but it at least flowed from her. Yes, the wise old king had seen the inherent ability of his people to choose the right path. Leaving no successors, he had cast the future of the kingdom on the people he served so faithfully. Now it was their turn to serve him. They could choose to live out their lives in freedom, without the tyrannical rule of power and government lording over them. Tasha believed in their value. She could only hope they did, too.
“Stunning speech, T.” She gave Saul a fake smile, but knew he saw through it to the fatigue beneath. He was always her greatest supported, likely because he was one of the few who understood what they were truly asking for. Complete freedom. It was a passion that knit them together closer than lovers.
“I’d say it gets easier to give each time, but it certainly does not.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You expect me to believe you’ve given that speech before? I’ve certainly never heard it.”
“Oh, Saul, you know what I mean. I preach the same ideas, even if the words might change around a bit”
He shook his head and laughed. “True, but that is what we call a different speech. The words do matter in speaking, after all.”
She shrugged. Adam had crawled onto the makeshift platform behind her, reminding the assembled people of the opportunity to speak their mind in two days’ time, how to champion for the freedom they preached, and another rousing discussion of the unique human choice of freedom. His voice was deeper, but somehow lacked the firm resolve of Tasha’s. It seemed to falter and waver a bit more, unsure of the next words. She smiled. He was learning, but it was a work in progress. Yet his youth assured his future success. After all, he had chosen this route in life.
“Have you eaten dinner yet? I was going to meet Andrea at the tavern to discuss tomorrow’s plans and outreach, if you would like to join.”
“If nothing else, I could use a drink. My throat is killing me.”
“Well, you were screaming over half of Welfordshire tonight.”
“After it’s all done, I may not speak for a year.”
“And hopefully you’ll be perfectly free to do so.” He gave her a week, linking his arm with hers as they walked. “It’s quite the vision we have, you know?”
“Tell me, what—“
Tasha cut him off. “Saul, old friend, I know you have never run out of words to say, but my throat aches and I have three more meetings with the people tomorrow. Could we for once walk in silence?”
He gave her an understanding smile. “Of course. But Andrea may pay the price for your vow of silence.”
The next day was a blur of similarly tired faces and ragged crowds. They seemed to come alive at her words, somehow overcoming the weight of the daily burden of work in mills, factories, and mines that ultimately would not fee their children. Tasha felt as if she were drawing back the curtain on a window, letting light stream in. There was hope in the future, and she could show it to them. She watched it bring them alive.
When the census taker arrived at the shop sh, Saul, Adam, Andrea, and assorted others had used as their base of operations, she stood proudly before them.
“I accordance with King Wilfred’s Final Decree, you all have been given the opportunity to select the new ruler of Corridale. May we have your choice?”
She stepped forward first and watched as the scribe readied his quill. “I choose no ruler.” The scribe dove towards the page, but then stopped just before the tip touched the paper.
“I’m sorry, madame, do you mean you abstain?”
Tasha beamed at the question. “No, sir. I mean that I wish to see each man and woman rule him or herself, fully embracing the freedom that makes us human.”
“I see.’ His quill hovered for a moment. “So, you vote for the people?” he offered, obviously searching for the best way to record the vote.
Tasha felt a shiver of unease sing through her body. Apparently, he had not heard too many of her votes. But, she quickly caught herself, theirs was also one of the first early morning stops, and in the midst of the business district. These were not the people who needed freedom from the powerful elite. “If that’s how you think bets to record it, then by all means.”
He smiled at her in thanks and wrote it down. The courier moved his eyes to Saul.
“The same. Let the people choose for themselves how to live.” One by one, each member of the small group voiced their support. At the end, the courier and scribe smiled, offered a shallow bow, and exited into the early morning light.
Giddiness and a victorious high rang in the shop among all those gathered. It was a high that carried them through the waiting, though Tasha struggled with the battle between the swell of hope and despair of uncertainty.
Her worst fears were confirmed when the final results spread across the city on a wave of gossip. Lord Milligan, a wealthy trader and business owner, had won the people’s hearts and, unfortunately, the crown. Saul knew to find her in the dark, sheltered corner of their favorite tavern.
“Tasha,” he began as he slid into the chair across from her. There was an edge of anger and outrage in his voice. “We have to fight this. It isn’t right.”
She sighed and shrugged. “The people chose who they wanted, Saul. What do you suggest we do? Force them to choose freedom?”
“If that’s what it takes, then yes! They do not know that they’ve resold themselves to the devil.”
“So we should be the ones to choose, because we know what’s better for them?”
“Yes!” he agreed vehemently, passion and fury mixing in his eyes.
She took a long sip of her drink, letting it cool her throat that still ached from days and weeks spent preaching their gospel. “And I’m sure Lord Milligan will say the same, if you ask him.”
That quieted him and dimmed his rage.
“We lost, Saul. It hurts, yes, but ultimately the people chose.”
“I hear he paid them off. Offered them handfuls of gold to vote for him.”
She shrugged again. “Then they chose money over freedom.” Another long sip. “Perhaps that will leave them better off in the end.”
“So you’re just going to let it go? Let them steal freedom from everyone in Corridale?”
“Saul, the people chose. They simply did not choose us. We cannot force them to accept freedom.”
His anger crumbled into pity and confusion. “I just don’t understand why. We know it would be for the best, and they could see it, too. Why trade it all for some measly gold coins that only ensure their future enslavement?”
“We offered them something great, but it is not an easy burden. Sometimes freedom is simply the freedom to say no, no matter how good the idea may be.”
“Yes, but I don’t—“
“Saul?” her voice was soft and it caught him off guard, enough to interrupt his oncoming speech. He looked at her expectantly. “We’ve spilled plenty of words over this already. We lost. Our choice now is to accept it and move on, or try to force others to choose what we think would be for the best. Now, will you have a drink with me?”
His mouth opened and closed once, then again. Finally he waved over to the tavern owner.
The two old friends sat in silence, contemplating the complexity of losing because they got exactly what they wanted.
Eh, so this is not my favorite piece to date, I like the idea, but I think that trying to compress it all into one relatively short piece left it feeling a bit disjointed and rushed. Then again, I’m not sure if I would enjoy writing this in a much longer form. I like Tasha and Saul, and I like the idea of a fantasy-political style story, but I’m not sure how interesting that would be overall. Still, I think I like the quality of my writing in this for the most part (with the somewhat formal sounding dialogue being intentional), even if the plot is not my absolute favorite of the challenge. Who knows, maybe inspiration will strike and I will figure out how to fix this. As is, i will simply leave it as a considerable attempt, though not a resounding success.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.