So life continued peacefully, which worried Jarl. Was it too peaceful?
He arranged to see Haldus. Haldus had been ill lately, so Jarl decided to visit him at his cottage.
In the meantime, little Samira had a birthday.
Inge tried to spend some time with Aldan, who still felt a little left out with his little sister getting all the attention, and the king preoccupied.
Haldus welcomed the king to his humble abode and shared his findings with regard to the gossip in the township.
“I have heard good and bad, your majesty.”
Haldus had been sitting discreetly away from gossipers while still able to hear what they were saying. He had also heard Hivera’s boys arguing, hearing Richard’s plans to “storm the castle and take the throne”.
“Then it’s true. She still has plans, but not it seems for Alfred and his son but her own son perhaps? What have the villagers been saying?”
“I have no idea whether Richard has his own plans or whether he meant take the throne for Alfred, but it appears that Hivera has been proclaiming Alfred and his son as the rightful heirs. I have heard various things. Some are against Hivera’s plans while others seem to be in favour.”
“What do they say exactly?”
“Well, examples of those against” Haldus consulted his notebook. “‘How do we know this Alfred is Winter’s son anyway?’ ‘Winter was a traitor.’ ‘We’ve got a king now anyway, why’s we need another?’ ‘The present king is better-looking.'”
Jarl laughed, but not heartily. He was yet to hear the opinions of those supporting Hivera. “Go on”.
“There was some who were neither for or against. ‘What we need a king or queen for anyway?’ ‘That’s treasonous that is.’ ‘But we didn’t need one before. We gots on well enough without.’ ‘No, we didn’t, we muddled along not getting anywhere. Now we’s got facilities.'”
“I see. And those for Hivera’s plans?”
“Well, in answer to the statement that Winter was a traitor, one villager said ‘The only thing he did wrong was have a third child and the old queen had three.’ ‘Yeah but they was twins – you can’t help twins.’ ‘Three is three’. Others seemed to spout Hivera’s claim ‘Direct line, father to son.’ ‘Well, she’s got a point.’
“Hmm. What am I to do?”
“Come upstairs with my, majesty. I have some books to consult.”
Jarl waited patiently while Haldus read something.
“There is a case for imprisonment, majesty, but that may only stir things up, as I had earlier supposed.”
“Try and get her words down, with witnesses. In the meantime I will recruit more warriors.”
Jarl looked around. “Are you sure you are comfortable here, Haldus? It seems rather basic.”
“It is perfectly fine, majesty. I am used to worse. This suits me well.”
Jarl nodded and left, with much on his mind.