Fantasy Funny

“So explain to me again who this woman is, exactly?” Magistrate Cornelius asked, his official robes billowing slightly in the morning breeze.

“She claims to be the Countess of Waterfield, sir,” answered Thomas Tiller, a local landlord.

“Claims to be?” Cornelius snorted. “Ridiculous. Count Grantworth died during the Uprising of the Nobility. The title can’t even be claimed through the female line.”

“I’m aware, Magistrate but you try telling her that,” said Thomas in a tired voice. “I’ve tried to be accommodating sir, I really have. But she refuses to be reasonable.”

“And that’s always been your problem, Thomas. Some people respond better to a clenched fist than they do an outstretched hand.” He gestured to the pair of armed guards. “Give an inch to these people and they’ll take a mile.”

“I uh, I wouldn’t say that, Magistrate.”

“No, because in your case, she’s taken a whole building. Now, come along, my good fellow. We’ll sort this out.”

Thomas looked like he was about to object, but kept silent. The man had always been soft and spineless. It’s why men like the Magistrate were needed, for cases just like this one.

The old hall was soon in sight. It may have once been a noble, grand estate that was a testament to the old family name. That name had finally let its age catch up with it and so had the hall. The roof was crumbling, parts of the wall were gone and its only regular residents these days were the local cows, eating the grass that was growing through the floor. As they got closer, Cornelius noted that some kind of tarpaulin had been stretched over the roof and the main door was barricaded. Granted, not very well but nonetheless blocked.

Whoever this Countess is, he thought, she was certainly determined.

“This is the Magistrate!” he called out. “You are hereby ordered to vacate these premises at once!”

“We shall do no such thing. No manner of force or bluster will move us from our ancestral home!” a haughty voice replied.

“A home that isn’t fit for anyone, ancestors or otherwise, my good woman,” he countered.

“We are not your good woman, sir! We are Countess Elizabeth Lucinda Francesca Mary Waterfield. You will address us with proper respect!”

“Excellent, the royal we,” muttered the Magistrate.

“It’s not just royal. There are a couple of cronies with her in there, too,” said Thomas.

“Wonderful. Nothing like an echo chamber to reinforce your personal beliefs,” he said in an aside. In a louder voice, he shouted, “Unfortunately, Countess, this building is no longer fit for human habitation! Perhaps we can find you more comfortable lodgings?”

“This is the seat of our ancestral home!” she barked back. “We have already begun to restore it to its former glory!”

“Indeed?” Cornelius glanced at the tarpaulin. “And what a marvellous job you’ve done of it too!”

“Your derision means little to us,” she replied. “What damage has been done will be restored when we have been put in our rightful place. We have already displayed a number of ancestral portraits on these barren walls. Magistrate, we will allow you to make official declaration that the daughter of Count Grantworth has returned home at last.”

“Surely they would much rather hear it from the Countess herself. Why not come out and show everyone?” he asked.

“Certainly not! A woman of nobility, such mysel… ourselves,” she corrected herself, “knows when to mix the common folk and when to remain in her position, as is proper. You will carry out this task for us and make it clear that all dues should be paid to me, not the spineless sycophant that walks with you.”

“I say, that was rather uncalled for!” squeaked Thomas.

“I think not. You have done nothing to aid us since our arrival, merely demanded money that is not owed to you from your betters.”

“I asked nicely!”

“And we said, no.”

“I made you breakfast! Many times!”

“Then you are as poor a cook as you are a landlord.”

“N-Now, see here-!”

“Oh, do be quiet, man,” said Cornelius.

“Magistrate, please! What was that you just said about clenched fists?”

“I wanted to get an impression first of all, but I believe I’ve seen enough.” He raised his voice again. “I’m afraid the only announcement I’m making today in regards to yourself, Countess, is the one I’ve already made: vacate these premises at once.”

“We would rather die than suffer such insolence!” she spat.

“Now, let’s not get caught up in dramatics. Jacobs, move this mess aside,” he ordered.

“Yes sir!”

The larger guard with him moved to the entrance and started to shift one of the boxes. He suddenly yelped, withdrawing his hand sharply. Cornelius managed to catch a glimpse of a sword point before it retreated back into the cracks between the barricade.

“Have at you, fiend!” she declared. “We shall not be intimidated!”

“Sir, she’s armed, sir! Stabbed my hand, sir!”

“So are you, you twit or do you think your own weapon is for show?” sighed Cornelius. “Williams, sort out the barricade while Jacobs keeps her distracted.”

Williams merely nodded and stepped toward his comrade, who had drawn his own sword. He tried to wedge it between an opening, but the blade of the Countess swiped at him again.

“You shall not enter!” she cried. “Our defences our strong and sturdy! They shall never fall to the likes of you!”

Williams examined the barricade briefly, then took a firm hold of one of the lower boxes. He gave it a firm tug. The moment it shifted, the entire barricade came crashing down.

“Treachery! Trespass! You two, see these ruffians off!” she commanded from within.

There were two simultaneous battle cries as a very young, skinny man and a much older gentleman charged (or in the latter case, hobbled) out of the door. The younger dropped his weapon of a chair leg as soon as he saw them. The older was gently disarmed of his walking stick.

“A battle for the ages,” remarked Cornelius. “Kindly extract the Countess.”

Williams and Jacobs ran inside. There were sounds of a struggle, the clattering of metal and lots of yelling. It continued when they brought out a woman, sat in a once ornate but now old and rotting chair. She was dressed in finery and wore a look of fierce resolve.

“Don’t believe this is the end of this, Magistrate,” she sneered. “I will have what is mine, by right of blood!”

“Unfortunately, my good woman, it takes a little more than blood to make claims such as yours. Return her to my office, we’ll get her sorted out,” he said.

The two guards carried her off, still stubbornly planted on the chair.

“There we are, Thomas. That’s the last we’ll be seeing of her,” said Cornelius.


Despite what he had said to Thomas, Magistrate Cornelius didn’t consider himself an unfair man. He only held the ‘Countess’ for a day and made certain she was fed. He’d even offered her a carriage to wherever she wanted to go (preferably somewhere far from Waterfield).

Two weeks had passed since then and Cornelius did his best to put it out of his mind. Whatever the strange woman did now was no concern to him.

Today’s matter was concerning an apparent gathering of people on the road to the old hall. It was something of a crossroads for goods going in and out of Waterfield, along with the connecting roads to other places nearby.

When he and his guards arrived on the scene, the first thing he noticed was a wooden hut that hadn’t been at the crossroads earlier. It was situated closest to the road that led to the old hall and a number of people were gathered around it. Carriages and carts were doing their best to either move the people or get around them with varying degrees of success.

“What is the meaning of this?” he asked the first person he saw. “When was this constructed?”

“Beauty, isn’t it?” said the man. “They just finished it last night for her ladyship, see.”

“Her ladyship?” Cornelius groaned. “This had better not be who I think it is.”

He pushed his way through the crowd, most getting out of his way when they saw who he was or the presence of the guards made them move.

“Right, everybody, move along!” he called out. “This is an obstruction and has to be cleared away. Come along now.”

“There has most certainly been an obstruction, Magistrate: of justice!” a familiar voice responded.

There she was, sat in the middle of her hut. The Countess.

“My, my. I had a slight suspicion you were somehow involved in this,” said Cornelius.

She smirked. “If it was only slight, then clearly greater efforts must be made. I told you this wouldn’t be the end of things and I… we are a woman of our word.”

“Quite a thing of irony, considering your word is the only proof of your supposed claim.”

“That is all the proof that should be needed.” She gestured around her. “You see? These good people already know truth when it makes itself so plainly.”

“That or they simply are entertained by the antics of an… eccentric woman.”

“Regardless, their support for us is clear. When you removed us from our ancestral seat, we only had a small tent. Then others came and have proven to be of much more respectable minds. This dwelling,” she said, “is their work. A recognition that their Countess should not suffer unnecessary indignity from others.”

“It is not others that cause you indignity, I assure you.” He produced a scroll from his robes and handed it to her. “This is yours.”

“Ah, finally recognising my… our claim and offering us what is ours, no doubt.” She unrolled it and her lip curled. “A fine of ten shillings? What is the meaning of this jest?!”

“There is no jest, Countess. Your dwelling, quaint as it is, is an obstruction that is causing everyone something of an inconvenience. You’re to remove yourself from it at once and be on your way. Once the fine is paid of course,” he added.

“Impenitence!” She crumpled it and threw it back at him. “We shall do no such thing! You men! As Countess of Waterfield, I order you to arrest the Magistrate at once!”

The two guards with him looked surprised for a moment, but didn’t move to obey.

“Really now, Countess, this is becoming degrading on your part,” sighed the Magistrate. “I ask you to come along quietly, pay the fine and be on your way. We’ll say no more about it.”

“We will not be moved by such vulgarity!” She drew herself to her full height, which wasn’t very tall and her nostrils flared. “We have what rightfully ours and not you, nor anyone else, shall deny me of that claim!”

A few of the surrounding people made sounds of agreement, some even standing with her to reinforce it. Cornelius had a look around and decided that, for now, discretion was the better part of valour. Until he could gather up more men, of course.

“I shall return in one hour,” he announced. “You will all be dispersed by then. Further steps will be taken if not. Countess, you have been issued your fine. Pay it and there’ll be no further trouble.”

He turned on his heel and left, her defiant cries following him the entire way.


Moving the crowds along has been the easy part. The vast majority were simply people who had seen others gathered around one place and were naturally curious. With a little show of extra force, they were quickly dispersed. The real problem, once again, was the Countess herself.

She had garnered a few more supporters than before, those who were obviously misguided or looking for some kind of cause. Though they weren’t armed, they stayed alongside their patron who remained planted inside her little hut. She paid the fine, but obstinately refused to be moved.

As such, Magistrate Cornelius decided that if she wasn’t going to move from inside the hut, he would just move the hut. He ordered his men to begin taking it apart while she sat inside. They did, despite her continued objections, until she was forced to leave after the roof was gone.

This time, Cornelius didn’t offer her a carriage. A couple of her supporters offered to put her up in their homes. He’d watched them go with a minor sense of foreboding. So long as she didn’t cause any trouble, he no longer considered her to be his problem. That had been a month ago and enough time passed that the self-styled Countess didn’t even cross his mind. A few more months passed and he sincerely thought he’d heard the last of her.

The Magistrate was recalling those months of personal peace as he made his way through the Waterfield Gaol. A number of the cells were full of people who had supported the Countess in her most recent bids to assert her claim. He didn’t imagine they were very supportive of her now.

She was in the furthest cell. Both at her own insistence and her own safety. She was sat regally on a wooden stool in the centre of the room, her fine dress looking much more battered and worn compared to when he’d last seen her. To her credit, it didn’t seem to diminish her spirit and she didn’t rise when he entered.

“Magistrate,” she said curtly. “I… we suppose it would be too much to hope for an explanation for your vulgar actions.”

“You refer to me doing my job?” he asked.

She sniffed. “Hardly. We are taken here, chained up and locked away for months like a common vagrant. If this is how you treat nobility, we dread to see how you treat the lower classes.”

“I see. So you don’t feel that you did anything to warrant imprisonment?”

“Certainly not! I believe I am due some compensation. It’s what I… what we deserve, especially since you had us thrown in here on ridiculous charges.”

“You stole the cows from the surrounding tenants.”

“We simply took what was owed to us when they refused to pay us their dues as rightful owner of their lands.”

“A position to which you have no claim whatsoever.”

“That is what you believe, Magistrate.”

“And what of your followers?” he replied archly. “They believed that their Countess would protect them when they acted on her behalf and stormed the farming auction.”

“I encouraged no such action,” she countered. “That they chose to engage in such thuggery in my… in our name is both insulting and debasing.”

“So when you steal and sell other people’s cattle, that’s right and fair, but when they come around and cause a riot at an auction you hosted, you claim no responsibility?”

“Of course not. We are not accountable for the actions of peasants and commoners,” she huffed.

“And what of your actions, Countess? Or are you going to blame the commoners for refusing to testify or even attend the numerous bankruptcy hearings you had?”

“Sheer nonsense,” she snapped. “What right have they to declare me bankrupt? I, the Countess of Waterfield?”

“Every right, considering you haven’t a single penny to your self-proclaimed name. Not even after the auction for your ‘family heirlooms’.”

“Incompetents. Barely able to recognise a true treasure, even when it’s sitting right in front of them.”

“Something to be said of yourself, as well?”

Her eyes widened and her nostrils flared. “How dare you?!”

“I dare, quite easily. You are not a Countess, Elizabeth, if that’s even your real name. You haven’t a single coin in your pocket, nor any support for your claim. Interest in you has dwindled. You caused quite a stir in your time here, but now it’s time to face reality.” He stepped out of the way of the door. “You’ve paid your debt to society and are now a free woman. I suggest you abandon your venture and make the best of your current situation.”

If she was in any way rattled or disheartened by his statement, she didn’t show it. Instead, she turned to face him and held her head up proudly.

“We shall make the best of things, as you say, but as we told you when we first met, Magistrate, we shall not be denied. We… I am Elizabeth Lucinda Francesca Mary Grantworth, Countess of Waterfield. We shall not kowtow to your wishes, nor anyone else’s. From this moment until my last, I shall have what is rightfully mine and do whatever it takes to secure it now and for all time!”

Cornelius arched an eyebrow. Despite everything that this woman had done and purported to be, he was surprised to find he didn’t feel exasperation or annoyance at this declaration. It was something closer to… admiration?

“I see,” he said at last. The smallest of smiles tugged at his lips.

“Then Countess, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing each other again.”

“That we will, Magistrate,” she replied with a smirk of her own, “I guarantee it.”

With an ironic bow, Magistrate Cornelius left the cell. He would be told later that the Countess was eventually removed from the cell. She was carried out on the stool she refused to be moved from. As was only fitting.  

July 07, 2022 14:13

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.