The Chief of Spies sat at his desk at the top of the round tower in the castle, from where he could look down on the town and surrounding countryside. The King’s Order lay on the desk before him. The annual audit. One by one his spies returned and bowed before him.
The Beggar bowed and eyes fixed on the ground, gave his report.
“Jethro is by-passing confiscation of prime livestock by breeding from them before confiscation. He is selling the results to a dealer who trades them as prime stock to another country”.
“How did you come by this information?”
“Jethro allowed me to shelter in an outhouse when the weather was cold”.
“Did you observe anything else?”
The Beggar hesitated. “He has designed some kind of machine. It is only a toy. You put it into flowing water and it spins”.
There was a long pause while the spy master considered this. At length he smiled.
“The King is interested in such ‘toys’. You have done well.”
He tossed the Beggar a copper coin, and dismissed him.
Two women entered the room. The palace servant guided the young woman to a chair and indicated she should sit down. – The Simpleton, the Spy thought.
He gave the young woman a warm smile.
“You have been enjoying yourself at Helen’s house I hear?”
“Oh yes”, the girl replied, beaming with pleasure. “Helen’s house is such fun. All the mothers’ leave their children there when they go out to work. The children play and Helen has such wonderful games”.
“Tell me about the games” the Spy encouraged with mock interest.
“One is fun”, the Simpleton called out, holding up one finger. “Two are shoes” she shouted, pointing at her feet. “Three are trees”, she said, standing up and fluttering her arms and fingers, like leaves in a tree.
“I think I get the picture” the Spy said.
“Four is a door” the Simpleton shouted, indicating the shape of a door with one hand.
“Enough!” The Spy roared, not used to being disobeyed.
“Five is a hive!” The girl shouted, making the shape of a hive with her hands.
The Spy glared at the servant, and made a hand gesture of dismissal. The servant hurried the girl from the room.
“Six are sticks!” The girl shouted as she was led out the door.
“Seven is heaven” echoed back up the stairs as their footsteps retreated.
The Chief of Spies returned to his desk and made some notes.
He then made a clicking noise and a servant appeared from behind a screen.
“And the rest of the report?”
“We have been watching Jethro for some time. He is always inventing and innovating and he shares his ideas with everyone. The peasants are finding ways to complete their work faster with no loss of efficiency.
Before Helen got the mother’s organised to take turns looking after all of their children, the mother’s were hampered in their work by constant interruptions. The children are happier with playmates, and they learn from a lot of different adults. The women complete their work more quickly and with less stress, are less tired and have more free time. Helen is also a herbalist who treats illnesses. The peasants prefer her to our doctors because she charges only nominal fees. We think she is teaching the women how to avoid pregnancy”.
The Spy paused.
“Oh, definitely witchcraft Sir”, the Spy smirked.
The Spy Chief also smiled.
“Employ the witches to organise a campaign against them. Make sure ‘bad luck’ occurs to any who follow their ideas, but make sure the finger always points to them”.
The Spy nodded and left.
Three months later, as the green of the trees turned to copper, a fire was lit in the town square. An angry crowd raged and cursed at the two broken people chained to the stake. As the Chief of Spies looked down from his tower upon the scene below, above the crackling of the flames, and Helen’s screams, Jethro’s voice rose above all.
Copyright Prayerwarriorpsychicnot 2014
Written in tribute to my father.