The Fall of Lord Blackthorn




The boy Blackthorn inadvertently betrayed his emotions while he waited for his Lord to return from the dark halls below. 'Twas a small gesture that revealed his impatience, a mere wringing of the hands; otherwise he stood perfectly composed, dressed in green and gold brocade, back straight and proud, not a glint of sweat upon his brow, a true feat in a summer when the sun had not retreated once beyond the clouds, when rumors had rustled the leaves of the Deep Forest more than a refreshing wind. Yet the court clerk, Dryden, who stood behind Blackthorn, must have noticed the gesture, for not a moment later, Blackthorn felt Dryden's hand on his shoulder. "Patience, boy. I know thou art eager for him to appear. Others are eager as well."

Indeed, the restlessness of the crowd continued to intensify. Though the trial itself had lasted less than a week, for a year not a soul could have stepped within Yew without hearing some mention of the events that had led up to this day. First had come the accusation by the destitute woman, who had recognized the accused when she had begged him for a coin outside The Slaughtered Lamb. Everyone who had been within the tavern that night could recall her screams, for the screams had not stopped, not even when the town guard had arrived and dragged her away. Only when they had brought her to the healer did she quiet, and only then because of the sedative.

The destitute woman—Nyomae was her name—was now among those who shared the podium with Blackthorn and the others, a beautiful woman when not covered with the grit of the forest floor or dressed in beggar's rags, as the guards had found her on that fateful night. She sat with her hands folded demurely across the lap of her elegant dress, her head bowed, long tresses of curly, brown hair hiding her face. In the time Blackthorn had known her, she had never smiled nor laughed, nor had she cried. The tears had ceased nearly a decade ago, so she claimed, nearly a decade after the night when she had thought she had seen the last of the man sitting next to her . . .

Manacled to his chair, he, too, sat with his head bowed and hands folded over his lap. He barely stirred as he waited for the announcement of his fate, the folds in his robes, sewn from the finest of brocade, still as if sculpted from marble, and matching his platinum hair, cropped close to the skull. Iron eyes, and the lines etched by his frown, might have suggested anger, even apathy towards the day's events, but tears rimmed his solemn features. Unlike the woman beside him, he shared his sorrow openly.

The accused had attempted to dismiss the incident at The Slaughtered Lamb on that night a year ago, greeting his compatriots with shakes of the hand and claps on the back, even though the beggar woman had ripped his shirt and the scratches from her fingernails still bled. That he had allowed himself to bleed, that he had neither sought aid nor healed himself with his magical abilities, those were the first indications that something was amiss. Still, the accused had bought his friends drinks, even laughed about the incident. Then, after many tankards of ale, one of his compatriots had repeated the name that had been screamed, and screamed again. "Windemere!" his friend had jested in a voice that mocked the woman's cries. "Windemere! The Slayer from the Sea! He blights the coast with blood! Windemere!" And the embers of guilt had flared in the eyes of the accused—only briefly, Blackthorn had been told, but enough to ignite the curiosity in one his compatriots.

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