The Fall of Lord Blackthorn


All of Britannia is here, thought the boy Blackthorn. The Great Council, the justices, the Lord Mayor. Only Lord British is missing.

"No one could have asked for a fairer, more just representation in this court," the Lord Mayor was saying. "So on this final day, thou shalt listen, Windemere, to what thy peers, thy jury, have had to say."

To his credit, the Councilor did not argue, merely returned to his seat, and once again folded his hands in his lap. The Lord Mayor unrolled a scroll and began to address the accused. "As thou hast admitted, thou art Windemere, smuggler and pirate, murderer and rapist, scoundrel and thief . . ."

Or so he had been—according to what the Lord Mayor read—nearly twenty years ago, before the boy Blackthorn's time. Yet Blackthorn, like all other boys his age, had heard the name in many a tale. Windemere, whose ship, The Sea's Shadow, once terrorized the shores and shipping lanes between Minoc and Moonglow. From an ancient, hidden fortress Windemere and his crew did set sail, and not a coastal village escaped their wrath during those years. Entire communities burned, and children populated the piles of dead found within the ashes. There were those who still claimed that the land in the northeast had died not from the drought, but from the blood spilled by Windemere and his crew.

"And during this time, thou didst thy best to keep thy identity, if not thy name, hidden," the Lord Mayor said, as he looked up from his scroll. "Those of thy crew who chose to abandon thee never traveled far, did they? And thou didst leave no survivors after thy raids . . . save for one, this woman who sits beside thee. In this one instance, thou mayest speak. Why didst thou spare her, Windemere? Thy jury wishes to hear it from thee."

Sun, stillness, and silence hovered over the court. How long it was before the shadow of a cloud slipped over the crowd, the boy Blackthorn could never say. He, like the justices, the Great Council, the townsfolk, and all of those who had traveled to Yew to witness the final days of the trial, already knew the answer, but Windemere had yet to admit it. Not that he needed to. He could remain silent forever, should he chose.

Yet when the sunlight over the courtyard dimmed, Windemere spoke, voice quiet and humble.

"I spared her because of what I saw her do, because of what my actions made her do. She slit the throat of her only daughter, a girl no more than ten, to spare her the savageries that I had granted of her to my men."

And, at last, a sob escaped the woman Nyomae. As she cried, the crowd released a collective breath, one of affirmation from those who had condemned Windemere, one of reluctant acceptance from those who still forgave him.

"Thou didst reveal thy face to Nyomae that night, and thou didst spare her life," the Lord Mayor said solemnly. "Many months later, fishermen discovered the wreck of thy ship upon the reefs within Lost Hope Bay. They also found what was left of thy crew, and most had not died by the sea."

The Lord Mayor laid the scroll on the podium. He did not need it now. "A few years later, a stranger arrived on the docks of Skara Brae, a man by the name of Aegean. He was a charismatic man, handsome and young. A born leader, many claimed, and, indeed, within a few short years, after helping the community in ways too numerous to count, he became active in the city's government. He studied the magical arts. He spread the word of the eight virtues. He also married, and raised a family."

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