The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

Paths of Destiny

"My Lord, 'tis not true!" Suturb said again, as the precipice on which Blackthorn knelt shifted. "I have always been loyal to thee, ever since we left Geoffrey's tutelage together. Thou art a brother to me!"

"Yes, a brother," Blackthorn agreed, but his voice shook with uncertainty. His eyes watered from the sting of smoke. "It could not have been thee. Thou wert in the tower at the time of the attack"

"So he could signal the ships, of course," Whitelock shouted. "Once the signal was given, he could then leave. Since the chamber upstairs was to be struck first, 'twould have given him enough time to escort the advisors to safety, thus ensuring the loyalty of Lord Malone and Sir Simon to him and Windemere. But something caused the ships to fire before the signal could actually be given, didn't it, Captain Suturb?"

Embers rolled past Blackthorn, flared as they dropped over the edge. "Flain's magic," Blackthorn whispered. "The crews of the ships must have seen the explosion. They must have thought something had gone wrong. They fired not long afterward."

"No, my Lord! This is madness! Listen to what thou art saying!"

"Madness?" Whitelock roared from afar. "'Twas thee who chose to meet in this place, was it not, Captain Suturb? 'Twas thee who spent several hours with Councilor Windmere before the Black Company rode to Jhelom, making certain that the ships that now burn would set sail this morn, and that they would be in position for the attack. All one must do is speak with the captains and the crews. They can confirm this treachery."

Perhaps, thought Blackthorn. One ship had already begun to sink. The other would soon follow, based on what Blackthorn could see. He did not think Flain would attempt to save the crew, assuming any could be saved at this point. He had seen Flain's work before.

"And why attack today, one wonders," Whitelock called. "Did Saduj not have dire news from New Magincia? What is that news, I wonder? Certainly, Captain Suturb, thou dost know."

"No, I do not," Suturb said, his voice suddenly calm, his gaze piercing Blackthorn's own. "Nor do I know how this treachery occurred. But there is dark magic afoot here, I know that much." His grip tightened on Blackthorn's wrist. "Pull me up, my Lord, and we will find out who hath done this to thee." There was no fear in his voice, only compassion.

Blackthorn nodded. "Thou hast always been a man of truth, my friend, which has always been matched by thy strength." Calmly, he pulled Suturb up, but only enough to clamp the captain's fingers upon the very same rock to which he had clung earlier. Blackthorn squeezed his friend's hand with genuine affection. "So if thy strength is as true as thy words, then thou shalt be able to pull thyself to safety."

He strode away, jumped through flames and smoke to where Whitelock awaited him. Moments later, Suturb's screams ended abruptly. An instant after that, that section of the tower fell away with a sickening shriek of twisted stone. The drop was not far. Had the traitor managed to survive his fall, he would not live through the tomb of stone and mortar that would soon bury him.

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