The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

By Blade

By Blade

The boy Blackthorn collapsed to the ground after a root ensnarled his foot. 'Twas not the first time he had stumbled. Despite the light from the procession's torches, the road west of Yew remained ensnared by the net of night, not to mention roots, mud, and brush.

Strong arms lifted him back to his feet. Shaana's father, the Captain of the Guard, gave the boy a reassuring smile, and proceeded forward to check that all was well with the wagon ahead. Blackthorn stared after him, absently brushing dirt from his cloak, and wishing once again that the captain had allowed Shaana to accompany them this night. But she had seen enough, the captain had said, and the boy Blackthorn could not disagree. The boy, himself, had seen more than he cared. All of them had, they who had been to his mother's grave that dreadful night.

Who had arranged such a devious plot, none could say for certain, though it was not hard to guess. Still, no evidence could be found against the Lady Windemere or her family, or any of their followers. Instead, the family Windemere had only had to express their sympathies, and they had done just that—except for Lady Windemere, who suggested with an unusually heavy sigh that the woman's death had been Nyomae's sacrifice for slaying her own daughter. Her imprisoned husband had remained silent when he had been told, had merely nodded, in fact, as if not at all surprised, and had sat back down on the cot in his cell.

On this night, Councilor Windemere could do little except stand, ankles and wrists shackled to the floor of a narrow cage, which was securely fastened to the wagon. His shoulders were slumped, his head bowed, the ragged tresses of his gray hair melted into the tatters of his robe. He stunk, too, which was why the boy Blackthorn kept his distance. The Lord Mayor had not given the prisoner privilege to bathe since the incident at the grave, nor had he been permitted a chamber pot, nor a change of clothes. Meals had been a minimum of bread, water . . . at times, a morsel of cheese. Small punishments, yet enough to take their toll.

The steed harnessed to the wagon, a gray plough-horse from the High Steppes, was directed west. The wagon shifted precariously with the road's turn, lurched, and for a moment, the boy Blackthorn thought it would tip to the ground. He imagined the cage spilling out of the wagon, breaking apart, its occupant fleeing into the forest, never to be seen again. As if they shared the same vision, the three men of the Britannian Guard quickly converged on the wagon. Fortunately, the wagon righted itself. The Lord Mayor, at the head of the column, garbed in his official robes, paused to ensure all was well. The procession continued on.

When their destination appeared as a subtle blue glow far along the road, the boy Blackthorn finally steeled his resolve and jogged forward to the Lord Mayor's side. The Lord Mayor seemed to take no notice, not even when the boy took his hand.

"Thou art doing the right thing."

'Twas the first time that the boy Blackthorn had ever dared to suggest that his father's actions as Lord Mayor should be questioned. He waited anxiously for a response.

At last, the Lord Mayor, his father, squeezed his hand in return. "Am I? I am not so certain."

"'Tis the virtuous thing to do, father."

"By whose definition, my son?" His gaze was distant, focused beyond the trees that were now dark towers silhouetted by the soft, blue luminance of a clearing.

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