Frankel nervously looked up from his scroll. He wasn't scared, exactly: if he was going to get killed, it was going to be loud and it was going to be public. The Queen was angry, sure, but she wanted to make an example of him.
He wasn't a huge threat in himself - his writing was inflammatory, sure, but the true threat lay in the idea that the floodgates would be opened for other political writers. She wanted to wipe him out in front of an audience so that the message would be clear.
Mess with the Queen and she'll mess you up.
Thebaz Isle used to be...idyllic wasn't exactly the right, but it was close. It had certainly sounded idyllic in the scrolls, but if you read a scroll written by the TITA (The Thebaz Isle Travel Agency) then you have to be prepared to take it with a grain of salt.
It hadn't been idyllic, but it had been nice. After Frankel's fallings-out with PAT, PET and PITA (The Peedling Actor's Troupe, the Phantelia Entertainment Team, and the Peedling International Theatre Agency), he'd decided had decided that perhaps his temperament wasn't right for his homeland of Ellay.
He'd been surprised by how nicely he'd settled into his new home in Az. Originally, the plan was to live somewhere nice, somewhere country. Maybe find a nice fairy wife, have a farm, and...well, obviously not have children, but grow cage trees, sell them to the other farmers.
Under the new Queen's regime, of course, the market wouldn't be farmers; it would be slavers.
Slavers, in Az. When he'd first moved here, the idea would have been laughed at.
His own nature had mainly been what thwarted his attempt to live a quiet country life, more than anything. He was a Peedling; he was hairy, creative, and - above all - craved the big city. Ellay, homeland of the Peedlings, consisted of big city after big city, the stretches in between mostly empty, apart from the occasional hermit who couldn't be bothered moving south.
The other main factor had been his discovery that he was a truly awful farmer. In temperament, sure, but also in literally every other way. His total inability to keep a single plant alive was almost impressive.
And so he had moved to Byntol, Az's capital at the time. He had found a job pretty easily, writing stories for a weekly scroll - "Children of the Isle." As a result, his work was widely distributed throughout all of Az, most of Eb, and he occasionally even received letters from Thlandish children, though these were few, far between, and frequently unreadable*.
*Education in Thland was for noblemen only, and anyone who could afford an education was not going to let their children read anything as idealistic as Children of the Isle.
Just a few years after emigrating, Frankel had a pretty good life. Not idyllic, true, but who wanted an idyllic life anyway?
Food was plentiful (living in Byntol meant that he had his pick of colours) and while he never found that fairy bride to settle down with, he did have a few good gnomish buddies who were always ready to lose to him at poker, or thoroughly whomp him at ducart.
(Az did have a few ex-Ellayian clubs and even a Peedling theatre or three, but Frankel decided early on to avoid members of his own race. They were temperamental, bitchy, argumentative, and worst of all, turned him into the same. If nothing else, he had a public persona to maintain - the author of the Uncle Chum and Aunt Lovely series was identified with good-natured kindness, and he wanted to keep it that way.)
However, the day that King Azzle died, everything changed.
The new Queen was initially celebrated, and for good reason. While Azzle had been a beloved King, he was predictable to the point where his presence in the throne-room wasn't even required. He was absent for a whole Fairy week once (a simple kurse had him bed-ridden, not wishing to show his face and lose the illusion of dignity) and the public didn't even notice. His strict, no tolerance policy on slavery was appreciated, however his equally harsh attitudes towards mermaids was considered backwards by many.
The new Queen, however, was determined to shake things up. Looking back, Frankel was embarrassed to remember how passionately he'd initially supported her. It had taken a full year for the doubts to enter his mind, and another year passed before he began to actively oppose her radical decisions.
Her acceptance of mermaids in those early days had won him over, however when she'd begun welcoming vampires, werewolves, and dragons into the nation, it had left many confused and anxious.
The passing of a law banning magic, however, had been the straw which turned the nation against her.
Magic; the very essence of fairy society. Most people had refused to believe the news and had laughed off the law, continuing to cast magic nonetheless. However, Thebaz's alarmingly large army (which were given royal permission to break the law as they pleased) the Queen had actually started enforcing the ridiculous new regime.
True, one could apply for a magical permit, but the process was lengthy, and only allowed one a limited range of spells. A permit, to do what every Fairy (and most Azian residents) had been doing since the moment they first discovered their powers.
While Frankel wasn't directly impacted by the law (a Peedling is more likely to rely on his wits) he saw the injustice of the new law.
And so he had struck back in the most effective way a Peedling can.
Piggy-backing off his success with the name he had made for himself through his Uncle Chum and Aunt Lovely stories, he released a simple, seemingly innocuous scroll, "The Vizard of Az."
It told the tale of a human child* who was whisked over to Az by the gods themselves. With the help of a handful of newly-found friends, she destroys the imposter royalty, and (most importantly) learns that magic isn't the evil some would have you think it was.
*Chum and Lovely were humans too - fairy children got a real kick out of seeing the lumbering creatures in ridiculous situations.
The Queen had ignored the pro-Magic messages of Frankel's scrolls, and focussed on a different part of the story - the importance of obeying the true royal line.
This message had so appealed to her, The Vizard of Az actually made it onto a Royal list of recommended children's scrolls. Frankel had even received an invite to the palace to meet the Queen, but he had politely but determinedly refused.
His experiences with PAT, PET and PITA had taught him how little control he had over his mouth when he strongly disagreed with someone.
Instead, Frankel had begun preparing to leave the city. He knew that the rest of the Vizard series wouldn't go down nearly as well at the palace.
Carefully biding his time, Frankel quietly released a second Vizard scroll, "The Wonderful Land of Az". Again, this could easily have been mistaken for the Queen's own propaganda. Once more, his work was a hit among the fairy children, and the Queen personally commended Frankel for his work.
The series, however, wasn't done yet.
After the success of the first two, he knew the third scroll would be snapped up quickly, and so he introduced a character which only an ogre wouldn't realise was a caricature of the Queen herself. Spoilt, bossy, and above all stupid, she started creating regulations which closely mirrored the actual Queen's.
Dot, the human heroine of the first scroll, returned in Maz of Az, and due to the fictional queen's ridiculous resolutions, finds herself in many perilous situation in the once-safe land of Az.
The night after it was released, Frankel left town. The major daily scrolls all pronounced him dead, and the Queen released an official statement that Thebaz had lost a brilliant writer.
After the release of the fourth Vizard scroll - Dot and the Vizard of Az, in which Dot and the ex-Vizard work together to overthrow Maz - Frankel started to sleep underneath his bed at nights.
The Queen wasn't a bad monarch...no, that wasn't true. The Queen was an awful monarch, however, she did have good intentions. Unfortunately for her, Frankel's plan was working, and his underground publications continued to be released.
It wasn't long before she offered an extensive bounty on his head - dead or alive.
"Dead or alive" - Frankel knew that the average bounty hunter was not proficient at capture, preferring to kill. An ogre hitman (by far the most common type) wouldn't even know the meaning of the word capture.
As Frankel was technically dead, others had started to write more in the Vizard series - the Queen, from what Frankel had determined, had hired a Peedling of her own (who signed his scrolls only as "Plumley") to continue the story, turning the fictional queen into the hero of the scrolls, rather than the incompetent villain.
In Plumley's tales, the less-than-subtle themes attempted to convince the reader that use of unsanctioned magic was comparable to murder.
Despite the Queen's efforts to ban them, Frankel's scrolls continued to find an audience, with children everywhere easily able to differentiate between his genuine stories and the stories of the imposter. They were also popular among the adult fairies, particular members of the resistance groups who found ways to get the scrolls to the masses.
Frankel's head went back down to his parchment, and his quill continued to scratch words onto it. He was up to the eleventh scroll in his series ("The Last Princess of Az") and until he was caught and physically prevented from writing any further, he had no intention of stopping.
Whether or not his scrolls were making a true difference, he couldn't say, however he did know that public dissent was rising, and several of the anti-Azma phrases he'd coined were now in common use. He missed the money, he missed his ability to leave the house during the day, but more than both of those, he missed free Thebaz.
He wasn't born there, but Thebaz was his home, and he would write one thousand scrolls and die one thousand deaths before letting an inept Queen ruin the country he loved.
Fantasy city by David Revoy, licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.