Challenge #02465-F275: The Folly of (Rich) MansteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  3 months ago 

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with a wave of his finger and flick of his wrist, he cracked his neck and grinned like a bitch -- Anon Guest

[AN: Ugh, the prompts that make me think about my new D&D character who didn't exist when this was submitted... Not doing that noise. Keep it professional...]

There's two ways to go when the forces of fate conspire to brand you for the sins of your father. One, of course, is to sink even deeper into sin, since people expect you to be like that anyway. The other was to be more pure than the driven snow. Some try both, because neither work. Some, like Fastophel, deliver cold justice with devastating accuracy.

The god's brand on his left cheek reads wrath in the Divine Script, but Fastophel is not wrathful in the slightest. He takes care to weigh everything in the balance like a logician at zero kelvin. He is a Justicer. Those who pay for his services get Justice whether they aimed for it or not.

So when the High Lord Blystur brought forth fifty starving peasants on a claim of conspiracy to commit Grand Theft, Fastophel sent the Lord out of his court to hear each and every one of the peasants in turn. He heard about taxes, he heard about Prima Nocte, he heard, too, about how slow their Lord was in paying his debts to the people. He heard each and every one of them complain that they couldn't even glean the fields for stray grains to make their daily bread, since their Lord insisted their toil last from dawn to dusk. Even the smallest of children were forced to work.

That was why, they said. That was why they gathered up those who had some kind of ability by sunset, to raid the Lord's coffers and kitchens. The latter for some food for their families, and the former to gain more food at a later date. They had even concocted plans to smuggle in better quality food than the weeds they could cultivate on their over-farmed lands.

Fastophel did not make any judgements before they heard the full story from High Lord Blystur. He sent the peasants out into a holding area and listened to Blystur's story. It was a very different tale. A tale of lazy serfs who kept demanding handouts, who kept complaining every single time he did something for the betterment of his lands. They complained when he diverted the river for his fountains. They complained when he directed the outflow from his mansions to the riverbed, and claimed that that had put sickness into the water. They complained when he magnanimously chose their crops or cattle for his tables. They complained about everything. It was tiresome, he said. He would be better off without having peasants at all.

Fastophel considered it all. He waved his finger, cracked his neck, smiled like a demon, and said, "You are correct. You will purchase their lands and sponsor their move into another Lord's lands. You will be free of all your peasant problems."

So it was judged, and so it was that the peasants once belonging to High Lord Blystur now belonged to the Justicer Fastophel, who owned a lot of land and dedicated all of it to food farms. That which he or his people could not eat, went out to the deserving and downtrodden. Fastophel never asked for more than his people could pay, and made certain the young ones were schooled to their best capacity.

It took a year for High Lord Blystur to realise that lands needed people to tend them. He turned his peasants' houses into fine gardens and wasted money on decorative Follies and mazes and, after the first winter, realised that he had no incoming taxes to help support them all. Acre by acre, his magnificent gardens fell into neglect. Month by month, he also fell into neglect. There was only so long a person could live on hunted game alone, no matter what their position and title.

High Lord Blystur chose desolation rather than a bruise to his pride. He chose to let go his remaining servants. Chose to watch his fortunes dwindle away. Chose to die of scurvy in the one room that had not been stripped of its finery, alone but for a few servants who were merely waiting for his passing to take what little was left.

The peasants returned, as peasants do, to a land that had lain fallow and thus rejuvenated itself. They built their new homes out of the ruins left by a once wealthy man. They grew what they wished, free of a Lord's taxes until another, different Lord noticed and could not abide peasants demonstrating that they didn't need lords at all.

Fortunately, he was wiser than the late and unlamented High Lord Blystur. It was hard, indeed, to be less wise than he was.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / rhallam]

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@tipu curate

Vaguely curious as to how the unlorded peasants went with the new lord trying to move in XD