The Rise and Fall of the Window Tax, Part Two - Controversy and Repeal
By Ed Greenwood
Culthorp's original draft Coincall was modified slightly by his superior, Master Clerk of Levies Asmarla Sundtree (a grim and cold-tongued LN female human Exp3, whose cutting remarks earned her the nickname "Old Iceknife"). She deemed "go-forth" collections of levy monies from nonpaying citizens shouldn't be a duty of the overburdened City Watch, but it should become the work of a new force of armed and uniformed levy collectors, "the Hands of the Crown" (promptly rechristened "the Houndhands" by Suzailans). The new levy was quickly dubbed "the window tax" by disgusted and incredulous citizens -- as the furor began.
Wealthy society matron Chesra Harrowhand, known as "the Roaring Lady" for her blistering criticisms of every administrative act, passing fashion, and what she viewed as the steadily worsening state of society throughout Azoun's reign, wrote a letter to Court officials referring to the new levy as "A blade thrust into the backsides of all loyal Cormyreans, even as the Crown expects them to fend off the blades and fangs of attacking beasts" and calling for the "official who thought up this robbery" to be horsewhipped through the streets and jailed for "blatant theft," with his own belongings seized to pay the first month levy for all citizens. She also called on "Azoun to return from riding the backlands with drawn sword to rush to the defense of his people by repealing this tax" and took the unusual step of hiring children to post copies of her letter beside the tax proclamation on all signboards. When one Purple Dragon gate guard laid hands on a youth trying to tack up Harrowhand's plea at his post, he was set upon by citizens and beaten senseless. When other copies of the plea were torn down by Watch officers, badly-lettered copies (obviously the work of folk reading a posted plea rather than any hired scribe) were put in their places by night. On one signboard, this happened at least four times.
Court officials arriving at the Royal Court for work the morning after the levy proclamation were hounded by chants of "Greed! Thieves! Greed! Thieves!" on the Promenade. This fashion grew until spontaneous chants of those two repeated words accompanied Watch officers, Purple Dragons, and known Court officials everywhere they went in the streets. Whenever Court officials were seen unprotected by armed authorities, rotten fruit, buckets of refuse, or flung chamberpot contents were apt to accompany the cries.
A popular local retired Purple Dragon veteran, Thamadar of the Six Swords (hero of Hullack Forest monster hunts and Sembian border brigand skirmishes), made a speech in the Market in which he howled that Court officials were "leeches and rats, sucking our blood while the Obarskyrs sleep or ride to war unawares" and that the Houndhands were "unlawful invaders who should be fought with blades, buckets, mops, and chairs until not a one of them is left standing!"
When Court officials got word of the speech and sent a large Watch force to arrest the one-legged Thamadar at his lodgings, local citizens rushed to defend him. Battle raged in the streets (featuring improvised barricades, the loosing and goading of draft horses through the Watch ranks, and beds flung down from balconies onto officers' heads). The fray lasted long enough for retired veterans (once part of Thamadar's command) to fetch arms and arrive to hurl back the Watch.
The Watch fled to the city barracks and called forth Purple Dragons to restore order. The old soldiers and the new clashed at swordpoint in the streets until someone set a fire and Thamadar roared orders that all "lay down steel" and fight the flames. This was done, and the fire put out by dusk -- whereupon Thamadar and his defenders went to the Promenade, and the veteran repeated his speech before the Gate of the Dragon (the main entrance of the Royal Court). His larger audience, this time, included many Watch and Purple Dragon officers who made no move to stop him.
The next day, a simple proclamation signed by the sage Alaphonar appeared on all signboards: "Her Majesty Queen Filfaeril, having just learned of a mistaken law passed in error, hereby repeals the Window Tax forever."
The populace roared approval of the last word of the royal proclamation, gleefully indulged in lurid speculations as to the fates of the Court officials involved, and continued to regard the Royal Court as they've always done: with deep suspicion.
(Underscribe Lhultan Culthorp has drafted no laws since the repeal and is permanently reassigned to recopying Court records.)
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