The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

Foresight and Fools

Foresight and Fools


The moons shone equidistant from the horizon as the riders galloped up the hill from the town of Britain, a company of nine spearheaded by a single rider, his cloak flowering like an ebony rose against the winter wind. Snow fell like small droplets of starlight, stirred into a whirlwind as the riders passed. Mud and slush splashed, the horses huffed and whinnied plumes of frost, and occasionally a rider would bellow at his steed to move quicker—an urgent orchestra in an otherwise silent night.

When he reached the crest of the hill, Lord Blackthorn drew his steed to a halt and called for his followers to do the same. Castle Britannia loomed before the Black Company, its towers frosted pillars of snow and moonlight, so tall that the windows lit beneath their eaves seemed like the brethren of the stars above. Blackthorn's eyes traversed those towers, up and up, and then beyond, into the sky, where he stared, as he had stared every night since the omens had appeared.

The comets, three of them, silent and still, each the twin of the other, feasted upon the brightest of stars this night, the wandering beacons of Compassion, Honesty, and Valor. Despite the glow of their tails, the night around the comets seemed particularly deep, as if the sky poured itself into brilliant fissures.

A solemn horn sounded from the gatehouse, reclaiming Blackthorn's attention. Shouts called back and forth between the Black Company and the towers, then the creak of winches preceded the rasp of ancient chains. Wood groaned. The drawbridge settled to the earth with a muffled boom, sending up a flurry of snow and with it, the musty scent of damp oak and steel.

Within the courtyard of the castle, the presence of the stable girl, a pretty child with wide eyes, surprised Blackthorn. "Treanna," he said, "'tis late for one so young to be awake, much less out at night."

She curtsied as best she could with one hand holding a torch. Snow drifted about her dress. "I heard thou wert arriving this night, my Lord, so I awaited thee." As she spoke, her gaze strayed to the black Valorian charger on which he rode. Blackthorn suppressed a chuckle. It had not been Blackthorn for whom she had waited.

"His name is Virtue," Blackthorn said.

"I remember," she whispered, then quoted: "''Tis upon Virtue that Blackthorn shall ride forth to oppress villainy and chaos.'"

Blackthorn dismounted, and handed the reins to the girl, who timidly took them. He patted the charger's neck. "He is thine for as long as I am here," Blackthorn said. A warm smile dimpled the girl's cheeks. "Dost thou know where I might find Captain Geoffrey at this hour?" Blackthorn asked. "I am surprised he was not here to meet us. I sent him and the Great Council notice of my arrival."

Treanna frowned in puzzlement. "The Captain of the Royal Guard is gone, my Lord."


The girl stepped back from the severity of his tone, and Virtue quietly whinnied. Treanna stammered to answer, but another stepped forward, a tall soldier who strode out of the shadows. "He left yesterday, my Lord. With old friends."

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