The Man Who Was Too Many
by Rachel Parsons
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The bellow could be heard in the next kingdom. It split Grizelda’s eardrums.
The beadles and the bailiffs looked at each other and grinned. They then noticed the duchess watching them, and suddenly found the parchments on their mahogany desks fascinating. She walked across the great room; her black, conical dress making it look like she was slithering. The rippling splays from the dress’s bottom added to the effect.
Grizelda opened the door to the sheriff’s private chambers. He was behind his eitann desk, all near seven feet of him. Her man-mountain. She looked over his ink well, his blotter, the mountain of reports from bailiffs throughout the kingdom. He had run his hand through his shoulder length, dirty blond hair and it looked as disheveled as the book cases.
She also noticed the books and pamphlets scattered on the floor before the desk. And the chain-mail vest that had been tossed to one side of the room. Ioseff was only in pantaloons and a thick cotton shirt.
“She’s been here, hasn’t she?” Grizelda said, trying to keep the treasonous tone out of her voice.
“And she left me a present,” her husband said, shaking the parchment.
Grizelda refrained from perching on his desk. She wanted to — reclaiming it as hers, as it were. She knew that her Ioseff had had an affair with the ‘she’ in question; she hated that but there was nothing she could do about it. Well, except for sending the shrew a beehive. The queen hated bees. Understandable when cursed to nakedness.
The thought of the naked woman being in close quarters with her husband made Grizelda’s nostrils flare and her eyes flash. A book fell from the shelf and conked the 3rd Earl of Gwrydall on the head.
“Gods’ breath, woman; it’s not like I wanted her here.” The earl rubbed his head. “She goes and comes as she pleases.”
“You just don’t go — and come — with her.”
Grizelda sat down on the red leather chair that was reserved for the monarch; it cushioned the naked woman’s bare buttocks. Grizelda sank into it, thinking of bees.
“Don’t you dare,” Ioseff said.
“Don’t I dare what, my love?” Grizelda said with false sweetness.
“She’s my sovereign — and yours too, I might add. No treasonous thoughts.”
“Hmmm. You can wind talk now, my love? I thought only warlocks could do that.”
“Don’t need to wind talk to know what’s on your mind,” Ioseff grumbled. “It’s going to be a goose egg,” he said, gingerly touching the book’s indent on his noggin.
“So what has she done now to so upset you?”
“This!” He shook the parchment.
Grizelda picked it up.
“All sounds reasonable and in New Fairy tradition. Trial by jury — I see where she’s keeping ordeal or champions for the appeals.”
“Not that part — the part below it.”
Affixed to the last sheet was a petition.
The man claimed to be falsely imprisoned by Heveydd, the actual king of New Fairy, now mad.
“Perhaps he is,” Grizelda said. “Rhiannon is taking these petitions seriously. I admire that she takes justice so to heart. Her ordeal has changed her.”
“Her ordeal,” he spat.
“You try being a woman naked in a man’s world. Then you tell me whether it would make you concerned with the weak and helpless.”
“It’s not the weak and helpless I worry about. It’s Chester Sprung getting his freedom. I saw what he did personally. I vomited, Grizelda. And you know me, I don’t vomit.”
“I’ll keep that in mind when I try a new recipe,” the duchess said.
“She’s going to be so bleeding in her heart that she will free monsters!” the earl said, ignoring his wife’s quip.
“Then be with her when she interviews him. I’ll go with you, and give you some herbs that will calm your stomach.”
“God’s breath,” muttered Ioseff.
Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Parsons