Medieval Fantasy Short: A Tinker’s Damn
A medieval fantasy satire about a dangerously pompous man that no-one in the town of Bitten Apple wants nor needs.
Once, not so long ago, a tinker came to the town of Bitten Apple. Townspeople who glanced at him saw a man hair-dressed and portly. Too few stared hard and saw the clutching little fingers and an expression at once sneering and boastful.
The tinker, who called himself Augustus Potentus, set up shop and began buying and selling all manner of things. Augustus especially liked dabbling in oversized inns, but managed to go bankrupt several times. Fortunately for him, his debts to the banks were so immense the banks could not let him fail.
He was a vengeful trader, and told those who argued with him that they’d best be careful or he’d damn them with lawsuits and embarrassment. Such curses were feared. The menfolk in the town listened to his blustering, and thought Augustus a clever man who must be respected.
Augustus was fond of women but could never get around to respecting them. He kept an address book with the names of three wives, several mistresses, a hundred or so one-night stands, and a few women for whose time and physical services he had to pay. He frequently forgot their names.
Some years later Augustus presented himself as a very rich man. The townsfolk were poorer, of course, but they were afraid to say anything. He was elected the town leader, and appointed a sheriff and constables who were in his debt. Those he appointed, in some unspecified way, became richer themselves.
Augustus next created the Damning Law, which let him condemn those who disagreed with him, and forbade anyone from outside the town to take up residence. Anyone who differed with him, or who just was different from him, was banned. The town for the townspeople, he said.
The menfolk began to think that they’d made a mistake in electing Augustus, but didn’t speak because Augustus would damn them for dissent. And anyway, men never like to admit they are wrong.
The womenfolk in the town had never much taken to Augustus, who kept pestering them to breed and be docile. He couldn’t fathom their mistrust. After all, he had liked (and left) a good many women.
One woman, Servillia, was Augustus’ house cleaner. She, more than any other, knew Augustus’ damns were just bullying, because he damned her several times a day, and yet there she still was. And she, more than any other, knew that even more than he clutched at women, Augustus clutched at praise and adulation.
Servillia shopped for food every day in the town market. The other women rarely spoke to her for fear that Servillia would report what they said to the town’s pompous potentate. But Servillia could sense their fear, and approached groups of women, saying that she of all people should be afraid of Augustus, but she knew him to be too vain and grandiloquent to be competently evil. Well maybe evil in a petty way, she would say.
The women listened, and began asking her advice on how to rid the town of the festering boil the voters had elected. Servillia had no answer, but began to think. A week later she called the women together in the town square. Augustus, she said, could insult and damn individuals, but he could not banish half of the town. If the women spoke together, and stayed together despite threats, they could say whatever they liked. But they would have to ignore their menfolk, who still were ashamed of their choice.
The women agreed, and began drafting a chant they could call out in front of the town hall.
“Stick to groping yourself” was suggested, but turned down because it was too narrow a focus.
“Banish yourself, bozo” was viewed more favorably, but rejected because it missed the mark.
They finally settled on “Augie you disgust us” because it made a nice chant and fit on the placards.
The next day, signs ready, the women marched on the town hall. The constables arrested the first six women, but since the town jail only had two cells they had to stop and let the others proceed.
The women circled the town hall and began their chant. After a while the men joined in, timidly at first, then more bravely when they saw other men in the march. Augustus saw the crowd coming and ordered his constables to gas and arrest them. But he had abused and fired so many of them that they had no loyalty left.
The crowd pushed past the constables, entered the town hall, and carried Augustus out of the building. They carried him all the way to the town line and pitched him onto unincorporated land.
Augustus cursed and threatened all the way out of town, but by then everyone had realized that this tinker’s damn was worthless.