Prologue to the Story to be Named Later, VII
The moment felt right. Everyone’s eyes were on the stonelayer’s wife and the dead apprentice. At moments like these, the right words, the perfect combination of sentiment and reason (false or otherwise), could turn a spark into an ember, the ember to an inferno. Words were to Orus as tools to a craftsman. With a better gift for singing, he would have been a court bard of renown; instead, he was itinerant, lucky to obtain grudging patronage from lesser nobility, occasionally and humiliatingly used as little more than a herald. His nimble and crafty mind was used for little else besides finagling a free mug from a reluctant innkeeper.
That had changed only a little when Veletus Remmia became his benefactor. The young Lord of the most powerful noble family in Goredock had a treasury whose vastness was only exceeded by his ambition, and he was determined to become more powerful still. The untimely death of his father, followed shortly after by the tragic drowning of all four of his uncles, left the wealth and power of the family in his hands. Veletus then set his sights on the Prince Electorship; waiting the remaining eight years of the current Prince’s tenure chafed the impetuous nobleman. The coalition of lesser houses and the backing of the Dreaming Tower had propelled the current Prince to the throne, and Veletus was determined to undermine that base of power from his rival.
The young nobleman employed Orus as a rumormonger, and paid well. His plain face and omnipresent poverty allowed the orator to mingle easily with suspicious commoners, and many of Veletus’ rivals had been stung by the words and stories perpetuated, and in many cases fabricated, by the cunning voice of Orus. Today proved the blessing of Bas on the poor downtrodden troubadour. Wasting his coin on another morning drunk had given him the chance to witness the events that had led to this point, and Orus had wasted no time in bringing them to the attention of his patron. Quick words persuaded the nobleman that a chance to create a schism between the city and the Tower lay at hand. Orus left the noble with a full coin pouch and orders.
Fan the flames.
He had hurried to the home of the bricklayer as soon as he could race through the city. Breaking the news of her husband’s unfortunate demise to the near-oblivious Sahra had taken all of his skill with words. She had been laying as if she were the corpse, and Orus had to restrain himself from scooping up the slow-moving woman and carrying her at a run. He tempered his eagerness by rehearsing choice lines and touch-points, all the while keeping up a stream of condolences to which neither of them listened.
The woman’s performance was everything he could have hoped for. The men were angry, sullen, aimless. He would give them direction. He had a dead and burned martyr to proclaim, a grieving widow to display, and an audience ready to do exactly that which he wanted them to do. As the lifeblood of Derud pattered onto the floor, Orus began to speak. Only one person in the tavern did not listen, but it mattered little to Orus; her value lay as a symbol, not as a person.