Once upon a time in a faraway land, at the edge of a vast ocean, there lived a cruel, heartless ruler, Emperor Gordonious Cambellian.
He ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. He had a mean heart and contempt for the poor, yet shared his riches with his wealthy citizens, especially those who donated gold and silver to his castle. And though these townsfolk were rich, he gave them big tax breaks, land rights and rewrote the kingdom’s bylaws at his whim in ways that helped the rich get richer, and the poor grow poorer. He was a simple-minded emperor, near sighted and prone to excessive consumption of spirits.
The Emperor Cambellian had no qualms about lying. He told the folks who made their living operating fruit stands and shoe shops, and those who sold dresses and candles along the Cambie St Market Place that he was digging up the earth outside their shops for a horse-drawn coach line that would go all the way to the edge of the kingdom.
“Construction will be done in a matter of months,” he assured the shopkeepers.
But the months dragged into years and peasants didn’t want to climb over the big hole in the middle of the street, nor walk through muck and mire just to buy goods, and so they stayed away in droves, until one by one the merchants lost their shops. And when the shopkeepers asked for compensation for their failed businesses, the emperor’s cold heart refused to answer their pleas.
Emperor Cambellian had a special fondness for people who lived in Point Greyviness, in spectacular dwellings overlooking the sea. He was easily influenced by those who built castles, hovels, townhut complexes, and owned large dwellings and rented rooms to the masses, at inflated prices. The peasants paid because housing was scarce in the kingdom, even though there were many empty huts, owned by wealthy speculators from three or four kingdoms over.
In one of these modest rooms there lived a woodcutter and her beautiful wife, a young maiden with golden hair, the greenest eyes and long dark lashes. The couple had lived in the dwelling for many years and had thrived there.
One day, Emperor Cambellian passed an edict which allowed greedy landowners to raise rents by exorbitant amounts. Not long after, the wood cutter and her wife received a visit from their landlord; the rent on their tiny room was to be more than doubled. The woodcutter despaired.
“However shall I raise the funds for us to stay in our home?” she asked her beloved.
When it seemed there was no way out, their neighbour, a young barkeep at the town tavern, invited them to a meeting so secret it was to be held at his old mother’s hut, deep in the middle of the forest.
The old mother’s hut was tiny but cozy with a crackling fire in the corner. She graciously served mulled wine in cracked cups. The peasants were happy to be congregating together, hoping to find collective solutions to their housing dilemmas.
The meeting was called to order, and one by one they told their stories. A former candle maker had lived in her building 27 years and on her small savings could not afford the large rent hike recently foisted upon her. A watchmaker and his boyfriend were being charged double this year, and even the well-known and beloved Cinderella — who’d left the prince years before and was raising their teenage child on her earnings as a seamstress — didn’t know how she was going to make ends meet.
Heartbroken over their collective plight, the woodcutter stood on her chair and addressed her fellow peasants.
“We must form a society for the protection of renters,” she suggested in a voice so clear and true that everyone listened with baited breath. “We’ll band together in solidarity and strength. The emperor cares nothing for us, only for our taxes.”
“Hear, hear,” the people shouted, raising their mugs.
And on a blistery, winter day, deep in the middle of the dark woods, the newly formed renters society prepared a handbill, informing their brethren of the evil, corrupt policies of the ruthless emperor. When the handbill was ready, it was copied and hung all over the kingdom.
But when the evil emperor saw the handbill, he passed Edict 42, which stated that if 10 or more peasants congregated together and voiced their concerns, or prepared handbills with information for other peasants, they’d be taxed tenfold, and imprisoned.
Edict 42 also declared that peasants without fixed hovels shall not have the right to cast their votes for the emperorship, even though during his reign, homelessness amongst the peasants had doubled.
But the young woodcutter, who had by this time become a leader in her own right, refused to be silenced by Edict 42. With her silver-tongued oratory skills she convinced her brethren they had to power to resist the will of the evil emperor.
And so it came to pass, that Emperor Cambellian was overtaken by a mob of angry peasants. They came from every corner of the kingdom. Three dozen abreast, hundreds in depth, they came marching, over the moat, inside the gate, past the armed guards and into the castle walls, where they slayed the emperor. His head was brought out on a silver platter, his body later buried in disgrace in the paupers’ cemetery.
And the peasants, the tenants, and those who operated stalls in the market place, the blacksmiths, wheelwrights, witches, tailors, musicians, poets and prostitutes lived in harmonious peace for the rest of their days.