“Brothers and sisters, thank you all for being here this evening. I would especially like to thank the Chart branch of the Side Party, local party chief Dennis Smith, and whip Eliza Carton for all of their hardworking towards making this rally possible.”
Ben and I were several blocks away from the square but we could still hear the voice. It was being projected from boxes lying in windows all over the city, and although some guards were attempted to get the people to turn them off, most of them walked around the streets with a notepad in hand, scribbling something whenever they passed a speaker.
A guard met my eyes and his eyes narrowed. He was probably suspicious because my head was wrapped in a scarf. I’d seen a lot of people in the square, with hidden faces, and the guards had even attempted to stop some of them from entering the square at one point.
The guard took a step in my direction. I grabbed Ben’s shoulder and ducked into an alley.
“Let’s go,” I said.
Ben was startled but didn’t ask any questions as we bolted. I heard a shout behind us, then several more in reply. Clanking armor mixed with the words blasting out of the speakers.
“… they said we couldn’t do it. They said the only way to win was to appeal to Headers, to beg them for inketts, to work with the Front Party no matter how much we disagreed with them. Even today, they say this rally is a bad idea. They say it’s dangerous for the leader of the opposition to come out here.”
The voice was high-pitched and raspy, like someone was speaking at the top of their lungs after yelling for several hours. Cheers and chants would sometimes carry through the speakers, usually when the voice paused.
We entered the inn through the back door. The old lady wasn’t there anymore. The others weren’t back yet, so we put away the fruits and canteens, and walked over to the window behind the old lady’s desk.
People, just people everywhere. The noise was deafening, the chants only mildly catchy, and the stage too far away to see. Despite all that, there was a certain energy in the air, an energy that was building up gradually. Even the raspy voice was getting louder, more high-pitched, more enthusiastic.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ben.
“Don’t they have rallies like this in Sett?” I asked.
“No. Since the Side Party’s held it forever, no one even bothers to campaign there.”
Honestly, I was surprised this world had a democratic system – albeit with a limited franchise. In the books I’d read, fantasy worlds had kings, knights, emperors, and feudal lords. If there was magic, there had to be a king. A magical kingdom that wasn’t a kingdom was a dumb idea.
“They told us to give up,” continued the voice, so loud it almost hurt my ears. “They told us to stop fighting! To let our brothers and sisters suffer under the Front Party’s draconian policies. They told us to shun hope, to throw away our pride, to never think that things could get better than they already are. But we said no! We said no!”
The crowd chanted, “We said no!”
“When are the elections?” I asked.
“In a little over a month,” replied Ben. “So we’ll probably see more of these rallies along the way to Bendeck. Depending on how long we stay there, we might get to see the results too.”
With all the smiles, and cheers, the happiness and joy in the air was almost palpable. It made me curious, however, why so many people could get so worked up about politics. It had always been strange to me, reading history books and novels set in those days, that people cared about stuff like this.
Back home, I never gave it a second thought. Politics was messy, annoying, and kinda pointless. Even if your side won, nothing ever changed. I wasn’t old enough to vote yet, but it was safe to say I wasn’t going to change my mind in two years.
My parents had strong opinions on it though, and they almost never agreed. Dad had been a social worker before going into real estate, while Mom had been a career politician all her adult life. During the little time we spent together, they always bickered about some policy, or new treaty, or whatever whoever the president was, was doing last Thursday. Suffice to say, thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday.
Which is why the legions of raving fans that made this political rally seem like a concert looked silly to me.
“And what do you think?” I said, repeating what my parents always said at the end of their arguments.
“I don’t care,” said Ben, repeating what I always said before leaving the table back home.
“Me neither.” I turned to watching the crowd again. When were Elenor and the others going to come back?
“What is it Ben?”
“I’ve started to care a little, recently.”
“Oh.” I tried to meet his gaze but he was still looking out the window.
“Yeah, it was a little before master died. The kids around the neighborhood started talking about this new guy who was shaking up the system. Most of them liked him cuz he was a troublemaker, like us. I never stuck around long enough to really get what was going on, but I used to hear parts of it.”
The crowd started chanting again. “We said no!”
“And then those words would come back to me sometimes. Like when I overheard one of master’s friends say he could be cured at the Header hospital, but master refused because he wasn’t qualified. Or when he gave me his own unburnt books after he died, cuz they were the only thing he could pass on to me.”
“We said no!”
“I don’t know,” said Ben. He sighed. “I’d rather not think about it right now.”
“Should we have something to eat while we wait for the others?” I asked.
“Yeah,” said Ben, turning away from the window. “Where’d you put the camcot berries?”
“On the shelf over by the door,” I said.
I cast a quick glance over my shoulder. The crowd seemed to be bursting at the seams. The voice on the speakers was trying to cut through the endless chants, and eventually managed to calm them down. Although I joined Ben in the kitchen and washed some camcot berries, we could still hear the voice, and the noise from the square. There was a tiny black box in the corner of the living room too, although it was turned off.
“Once again, thank you all for coming. It was a privilege and an honor for me to speak to you here, but without further ado, I would like to introduce the star of this evening. A man who has revolutionized all of Fore, who fights for our well-being every day, and whose compassion is only trumped by his humility, the leader of the Side Party, Gecko Ross!”
The crowd erupted.