Gabe and John took Angela with them when they went back to the prison the next day, Friday. The guard let the light shine in through the hatch, and Angela sang for him. They all enjoyed eggs, hard-boiled by John’s mother. Several people recited parts of the King’s law that had changed their lives in some way.
One woman recited from memory, “Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.” She told how these words ended her suffering from panic. She explained how she had developed a fear of being inside after the hailstorm had sent the ceiling crashing down around her. She would jump at every noise and constantly look up at the ceiling, nervous it was going to collapse on her again.
“But when I learned those words,” she said, continuing her story, “it was as if all I had to do was to say yes to those words, and the fear disappeared. All I had to do was to decide that I would obey those words of the King, and somehow he did the rest. The fear and anxiety were gone.”
Gabe, John and Angela left the prison with full hearts. Before they could go back on Saturday, Caleb bounded into the inn, his shaggy hair bouncing along with him. “You’re home!” Angela cried out. Gabe came, shook his hand and asked what had happened.
“I don’t know. The guard just opened the door and said, ‘Go.’ We were too excited to ask him why. We just ran. And I didn’t stop running until I got here.”
“Now what?” Angela wondered out loud. “What’s going to happen tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.” Caleb didn’t have the answer. They would know soon enough.
That evening they decided to meet in the middle of the day on Sunday. They didn’t like the worrisome feeling of not knowing what was happening to the others. The next day, most were present for the meeting.
They were singing the King’s song when the same six guards burst into the inn. They didn’t bother with knocking this time. The servants didn’t try to run or hide. The head guard looked around and ordered the others each to take one prisoner. Six servants were hauled off in the cage. Caleb escaped arrest this time—John had not.
Monday was a blustery day, and Phineas held his cloak close while addressing the crowd. He announced the reconstruction of the Assembly Hall. He also announced that from that day forward, it was illegal to sing the King’s song. The door guard at the prison hadn’t heard though—he had been on duty—and John got to serenade him with the others that evening. John also got to enjoy a bowl of warm stew which Angela had made herself. She and Gabe hauled it all the way to the prison on a borrowed cart.
Returning home they were laughing as they walked up to the inn and wondered if it was wrong to have such a good time visiting the prison. Their laughter abruptly stopped when they reached the door and saw a notice had been nailed to it. The inn had been closed to the public, their meetings and their business shut down by order of Vulpine. Again they were unsure of the future, tomorrow even. It was getting to be a familiar feeling.
Mother was furious over Vulpine’s edict. “What have I done? What have I done? You are the ones having the meetings. I held my peace about it. Now look what you’ve all done.”
Gabe and Angela stood mutely before their scolding mother. Father still kept to the family quarters upstairs and could not come to their defense. Without interrupting, they let her speak her mind.
“What are we going to eat? I ask you. What are we going to do? Spring is around the corner and the inn would finally be getting in some guests and now….What are we going to do?” She put her hand over her mouth and began to cry, her tears watering the seeds of bitterness.
Gabe had a suggestion. “You could take Father’s woodwork to the market to sell. It’s just like the King had it planned all along. Father’s been making them for years now, and you’ve always complained they are just sitting around. Why don’t you try and sell them?”
Mother wouldn’t acknowledge that the King had made a way for their family to have another business. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Maybe.” Gabe smiled at Angela but didn’t say another word.
That night, as people showed up for the daily meeting, they were turned away. Many gathered in various homes. Some just returned to their own homes, unsure. Although Gabe and Angela couldn’t tell people what would happen to them, there were two things they absolutely knew for sure: the King was alive and he always made a way.
It was on those two points that Gabe spoke at John’s house that night. Then John’s father spoke with every bit the passion of Gabe.
Gabe and Angela were back to the prison on Tuesday. While everyone ate, Angela told John about Mother’s tirade.He tried to comfort her. “She still loves you. She just doesn’t understand. She couldn’t possibly understand. The King will make a way for your family to survive. You believe that, right?” Angela nodded and smiled, and to John her smile lit the dark room. When he was released from prison on Saturday, John’s first stop was the inn.
Gabe was glad to have his partner back because Angela could no longer go on prison visits. Mother had her working around the inn while she was in the market selling Father’s wood carvings. Father continued to spend part of his days whittling but also took some time each day to work on copying the King’s law to give out to others. Gabe and Angela didn’t have time for that any longer.
The winter daylight was short, but the work days were long for Gabe and John. Tirelessly they spent their days giving out copies of the King’s law, teaching other servants and visiting the prison. Each Saturday the jail was emptied, and each Sunday it was filled again. Those arrested were glad there was always a group of them. The body heat of the others was the only thing keeping them from freezing in the bitterly cold cell.
Climbing up King’s Hill in the icy cold, the members of the Brothers and Sons grumbled at Vulpine for deciding to meet at Assemblyman Tate’s residence just beyond the forest. At the meeting, Vulpine’s mood matched the weather. His words were darts with no target to aim at other than those present. Some felt the need to duck.
“I’ve become king, and here I am still with those who refuse to submit to me.” Vulpine spat his words, practically foaming at the mouth. “There is still talk of the previous king living. There is talk of following his law. What are you doing about it?”
Everyone stirred, but no one answered. It was common knowledge that remaining silent was the best response when Vulpine’s anger seethed. “I want everyone serving me. We need to end this rebellion permanently.” Vulpine paced. Everyone waited for the plan. Vulpine always had a plan.
He stopped his movement and looked piercingly into each pair of eyes. “We need to know who is with us. We need some sort of sign, a mark that would show someone has devoted himself to my service. What can we use?”
Assemblyman Tate suggested a pin that looked like the village banner. Vulpine shook his head. “They could take it off at will and be loyal or disloyal depending on who was present. I want the villagers to be loyal. I want them to be mine.” The village doctor cringed at the word “mine.”
“What are you thinking then?” Tate posed the question.
“A tattoo: distinct, obvious at a casual glance, permanent.” The word permanent landed heavily in the middle of the room.
Vulpine turned again to the doctor. “Are you able to help with this?”
The doctor shook his head. “I’ve never tried it.” He paused and then added, “Isn’t there another way, a way other than scarring people?”
Vulpine ignored the doctor’s question and repeated his instead. “Are you able to help with this?” Vulpine wasn’t asking politely. The words squeezed out through clenched teeth.
“I’ve never done it.” The doctor shook his head. “I don’t think I can do it.”
Vulpine’s left eye twitched at the thought of someone saying no to him. For an achingly long moment, he just glared at the doctor. Everyone was tense. Would Vulpine accept no for an answer?
Vulpine broke off his stare and addressed the whole group again. “Who can help us?”
Tate’s adult son spoke up. “I know someone who can make tattoos, a cousin of mine. I’m sure that if he were paid for the job, he would be happy for the work.” Tate nodded in approval at his son’s suggestion.
“Fine. Make arrangements with Phineas for the payment. The design will be a simple letter V tattooed onto the back of the right hand. I expect you all to be first in line.” When he spoke, he looked only at the doctor. The doctor kept his head down.
“Phineas will make the announcement this week and will encourage people to take the mark to show their loyalty. Please show favor to those who take the mark. Give them the best service when in your shops. Show them respect. Do the opposite to those who refuse the mark. Leave them standing outside in the cold. Deny them whatever you like. Help people choose their loyalty swiftly. I’m counting on you all.”
Vulpine’s feet pounded out of the room, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The doctor didn’t lift his head. He kept looking at that heavy weight which Vulpine had dropped in the middle of the room—permanent.