The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

By Blade

"By Justice itself, of course," the boy answered. "Thou hast meditated upon this matter for over a year. Thou hast consulted the facts within many texts, thou hast shared thy heart and opinions with thy peers, and thou hast had the courage to ask thyself if thy decisions are wrong. From all of this, thou hast learned what Justice means." He tightened his grip on his father's hand. "At least, in this affair. Come tomorrow, Justice will mean something new. Virtue is not necessarily meaningless without definition—it simply changes its meaning when it must. As all the Virtues must do."

The growing light shadowed the lines of his father's grimace. "I have always told thee that the Virtues were chaotic and unruly."

"Yes, but thou hast also always said that chaos and unruliness are the price we pay for freedom. We must simply learn to tame both from time to time."

"Thou dost sound like thy mother," his father said. "She was never one for absolute rights and wrongs. But sometimes I wonder . . . I wonder if events like this could be avoided if disorder could not only be temporarily tamed, but caged. Then no questions would need to be asked, no quarrels would need to be had, no mistakes would need to be made. . . . " He trailed off. "We are here, my son."

The forest ceiling parted to reveal the sky. Trammel could be seen near the mid-heaven, a waxing grin barely visible within the glow of the clearing's moongate. Windemere looked upon the portal and released a heavy sigh, one of resolved acceptance, then stared sorrowfully at Blackthorn's father, who strode up to the wagon to confront him. "Soon, Windemere, soon. We wait for others who shall wish to witness thy . . . departure."

The boy had never seen his father smile at the prisoner before.

Not moments later, the sound of galloping mounts echoed from whence the procession had just traveled. The captain and his men took up guard around the wagon as the Lady Windemere, escorted by three of her own guard, the Councilor Ipocrisis, and her youngest son, the silvery-haired youth, rode into the clearing. "Lord Mayor!" the Lady shouted, reining in her steed. "Is this how thou didst intend to carry out thy murder? Without even giving thy victim's family and friends a chance to bid him farewell?"

"'Tis more than thou didst give the woman, Nyomae," Blackthorn's father responded.

Councilor Ipocrisis drew back with such indignation that his mount nearly reared. "I denounce that accusation, Lord Mayor. There are those who deserve punishment for what they did to the poor woman, but to suggest that Lady Windmere had a hand in such devilry . . ." He could not finish the sentence, so great was his anger.

Blackthorn's father sighed. "I am certain that thou dost sincerely believe thy words, Councilor. For that, I respect thee."

"The woman's death is the result of thine actions, Blackthorn," Lady Windemere said. "As is will be my husband's execution. We will not forget that, nor will we forget this cowardly act of stealing him away in the night. Art thou so afraid of retribution that thou must conduct thine execution in secret? Had Dryden not alerted me—"

"Dryden alerted thee under my direction, Lady Windemere," Blackthorn's father said, calmly. "And there shall be no execution of thy husband on this night, nor any other, not according to the laws of Britannia." He withdrew a scroll from his sleeve and handed it to the suddenly stricken woman. "So I have decreed, and so it shall be done, once this letter is presented to Lord British for his signature." He stepped away from the Lady's horse. "Councilor Ipocrisis can verify the wording for thee."

Her movements were slow, lifeless, as she passed the document over to the hunched councilor. He reviewed it, his expression at first taught with skepticism, then gradually loosening. At last, he lowered it, eyes filled with malice. "What is the meaning of this?"

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