The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

Foresight and Fools

Old friends, indeed. The Companions of the Avatar were taking matters into their own hands, it seemed. He had, of course, expected this, so it made little difference. Still, it complicated matters. One could not have one's Captain of the Royal Guard defying orders at whim. Blackthorn would need to deal with it, one way or another.

"I thank thee for the information, Captain Suturb," Blackthorn said to the soldier, "and 'tis good to see thee."

"Welcome back, my friend," Suturb smiled, and grasped Blackthorn's hand. Torchlight shimmered off his golden hair, and highlighted the scars upon his cheeks and brows, injuries that the Captain had taken while fighting at Blackthorn's side. "We have been separated for far too long," Suturb said. "I should have been at thy side for the past few months. 'Tis the way it has always been, ever since we first met within these walls, all those years ago."

"I needed thee here," Blackthorn said. "Someone in the Black Company had to oversee our operations in Britain." And it was the closest that Suturb would ever come to serving in the Royal Guard. Though the Captain would not admit it, serving the Royal Guard had always been his dream. He had been devastated the day when the knight, Geoffrey, had told him that his skills with the sword would always be lacking. 'Twas why Suturb had joined Blackthorn when he had abandoned his training in Guard.

Blackthorn addressed his men. "Thou art to assist Treanna in stabling thy mounts, then report to the Great Hall. Speak with Margaret, the upper kitchen chef. She should be awaiting thee with hot meals and warm mead, and she will direct thee to thy quarters." They acknowledged his command with their call: "By book and by blade!" With that, he gave them their leave.

He and Suturb left the Black Company and the stable girl in the courtyard and entered the main hall of Castle Britannia. Darkness lingered here, toying with the torches bracketed upon the great pillars, scuttling along the web of arches that formed the ceiling. Behind Blackthorn and Suturb, the doors closed, uttering first a moan of cool wind, then a resounding clap. Armor clinked, then silenced when the guard who had shut the door returned to his post.

Suturb stopped. "Art thou certain that thou dost wish to face the Council alone?" he asked.

"I do not relish the idea," Blackthorn said, "but it must be so."

"Mages," Suturb nearly spat. "I have never trusted them. Be wary." With that, he excused himself.

Ahead, the braziers of the main foyer beckoned, but even they, as great as they were, paled this night, and the fountain, normally vociferous in its welcome, merely whispered. Blackthorn strode through the foyer as briskly as he could, his reflection a ghostly apparition in the marble tile, then suddenly stopped. The foyer, nearly a cavern in itself, with pillars twice as tall as he and tapestries that could shelter a cottage—it reminded him of another chamber, a place shrouded in shadows, a mirror, and screams . . .

Dread chilled his blood, followed by fear when next he did hear voices, violent murmurs arguing amongst themselves. And he no longer stood in the foyer, but in an elegant hall. A brief wave of disorientation and panic swelled—then he realized that he had simply ascended to the second floor of the castle. He did not remember climbing the stairs or weaving his way through the halls to arrive here. Not that it mattered. The brief lapses in memory no longer bothered him. They brought no harm, just a bit of confusion—'twas a way for his overactive mind to rest when it could. He did not sleep much these days, had not for a long, long time. Dreams kept him awake.

Previous Page

Page 14

Table of Contents

Next page

Next Page