The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

By Book

But not from a distance, so he watched their dance without fear, wondering what drew them to the area surrounding his mother's grave. At some point, Shaana's hand crept into his own, and a short time later, she nestled up against him, and put her head on his shoulder. 'Twas an uncomfortable angle for her to be positioned in, he thought, for she was a head taller than he. Still, she made no complaint, and seemed quite happy, her eyes twinkling like the stars and wisps. As long as she did not mind, he would enjoy her warmth. And her hair smelled nice, too.

So enraptured was he with the girl herself, that she startled him when she spoke nearly a half-hour later. "There is another light down there. Dost thou see it?"

Recovering himself, he squinted into the night. "No, I do not—wait, yes." Fainter than the wisps, more sporadic, and white, like that of a lantern occasionally unveiled.

"'Tis around that light that the wisps circle," Shaana whispered, "if at a great distance."

"Could it be my father?" Blackthorn asked more to himself than she. "That light—'tis at my mother's grave, I am certain of it." Despite Shaana's warmth, his blood chilled. "The wisps are far enough away that he would not see them—" He stood, releasing her hand. "I must warn him."

"I will come with you," Shaana said in a tone that rejected his momentary thought of argument. For a second time that night, she gripped his hand, but this time with angst. "Let us go."

Hand in hand they wove through the trees and down the hill, Shaana in the lead, Blackthorn maintaining the pace of her lengthy gait only by stumbling along at a trot. Neither spoke, their quick breaths and the crackle of their footsteps enough to voice their urgency. When they arrived at the stables behind Blackthorn's cottage, they stopped, perplexed. Through the back window, they could see his father, safely at home, and speaking with the clerk, Dryden.

"Did thy father return from thy mother's grave already?" Shaana asked.

"I am beginning to think he was never there—at least, not when we were watching," Blackthorn answered. "Dryden has been here for some time. I can tell. His tankard is nearly empty and my father says the clerk drinks more slowly than any man he has ever met." He took his hand from Shaana's and walked forward. "Let's see what is going on," Blackthorn said.

A few knocks brought his father to the back door. "My son," he said, warmly. He smiled at Shaana. "And the captain's daughter, of course, she who came by earlier this evening to abscond my son from his studies. Since the two of thee doth now train and practice with the Captain of the Guard, I must wonder, then, what a growing woman would want with a young man at this hour, especially if they do not have swords with which to fight."

Why Dryden chuckled at this while Shaana's cheeks flushed a furious red escaped the boy Blackthorn. He was simply relieved to see his father indoors. "There are wisps about this night," he said.

His father raised his eyebrows. Dryden finished his drink with a single swig, then wiped his sleeve across the sweat that had suddenly formed across his brow. "A fitting portent," he muttered.

Ignoring the clerk, Blackthorn's father ushered the boy and his friend inside, and directed them to the dining table, from which he removed an unraveled scroll, but not before Blackthorn noticed the seal of Lord British upon it. "Seats, children," his father said. "Warm thyself, and wouldst thou care for tea? There is some upon the hearth."

Both the boy and Shaana accepted his offer. "Where didst thou see the wisps?" his father asked, as he set full cups before them.

"Circling an area to the northeast," Shanna answered, swirling her tea. "About a ten minute walk from here, if I judged correctly."

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