The Fall of Lord Blackthorn



The boy Blackthorn dropped his pack and knelt before the fresh earth demarking the grave of his father, which lay next to his mother's grave, both sheltered beneath the branches of the yew tree. Shaana, who had accompanied him thus far, knelt beside him, a slender arm around his waist, her head upon her shoulder. He bowed his head, contemplating that fateful day in the glade. He had forgiven his father, had forgiven Councilor Windemere and Lord British. He did not recall much after that. He only knew that at some point, Shaana's father had arrived to take him away.

He withdrew from his memories when he heard Shaana whispering to herself.

"The runes," she replied, after he had asked what she had been reciting. "The runes on thy mother's tree." She pointed to the trunk of the tree.

"'Tis a poem my mother recited for my father when they took their vows of marriagw," the boy said. "He carved it on her tree after we buried her here." He sighed, stood, and shouldered his pack. "'Tis time for me to leave."

Shaana rose. A tear graced her cheek, and she sniffed. "I will miss thee," she said, then flung herself at him.

The boy Blackthorn held her tightly, not wanting to let go, hoping that somehow time would stop, this instant would freeze, and it would all be over. No more worries, no more fears, no more memories. Just a single, wonderful instant when he was enwrapped in the loving embrace of this young woman, her breasts tight against his chest, her cheek warm against his, her luxurious hair trailing over his arms, her scent fresh upon the air.

Then she snuffled, and held him even tighter. "Wilt thou be all right on thine own?" she asked.

"Do not worry. I will not be alone within the halls of Empath Abbey."

She leaned back, just enough to peer at him through him through watery eyes. "Thou didst not answer the question," she said, somewhat tepidly. "Wilt thou be all right?"

"I am frightened, I am hateful, and I do not feel I can trust anyone," he admitted.

She nodded, sadly. "I do not blame thee. I am certain I would not feel any different." She glanced off into the forest. "Sometimes I wonder if anyone does. 'Tis not a pleasant thought, but sometimes I think it is true. Folks always seem upset at something. 'Tis a matter of not letting the fear, hate, and distrust grow."

"That is why I must go to Empath Abbey," said the boy. "I need time to reflect and to overcome those feelings." And he hoped that he would. He did not like the feelings, even had nightmares about them manifesting into horrible shapes that chased him through dark, underground caverns. "If those feelings were to overwhelm me . . ." His voice grew hushed. "I do not like to think about the man I might become."

"I do not believe thou hast anything to worry about," Shaana reassured him. "Of all the people that I have met—be they fighters, mages, bards, or . . . kings—never have I known someone who understands the Virtues such as thee." She kissed him on the cheek. "But if thou dost ever worry, or if thou dost ever forget who thou art, thou dost know where to find me. I will be here to help." She held him again. "I love thee." Another quick kiss, then she left him alone at his parents' grave.

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