The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

By Blade

"It has been years since thou and my Master, Flain, positioned me within the fortress of thine adversary," she responded. "Here I have studied and observed, waiting for this day—a day, I fear, that I thought might never come."

"'Tis courageous of thee to admit that thou hadst doubts about thy Lord," said Blackthorn, though, in truth, he had never wished for this to happen. Windemere had simply left him no choice.

"'Tis more courageous for me to admit the following, my Lord: There is treachery afoot in our ranks, a treachery that dates back for nearly a year." She pointed to the floor around Windemere's knees. For the first time, Blackthorn noticed the collection of parchments strewn nearly an ankle deep around the Councilor. "Much of it was coordinated here through correspondence both mundane and magical. I fear that it went unnoticed by my eyes. Indeed, I did not learn of it until today, when my friends placed the documents at my feet." She eyed the figures hulking between the pillars. "They have ways of seeing things that humans cannot. Still, I fear that my ignorance has cost us much, and I give my life to thee and Flain."

"Thou didst serve us well, Elistaria. Thou wert able to warn Flain of Suturb's treachery and thou didst allow us to secure this keep. As a reward, the keep is thine, so long as thou dost adhere to my law."

He paid little attention to the woman's grateful response. Instead, he reached down and took a handful of parchments and held them before Windemere face. "Now I will know who it was who worked with thee," Blackthorn said.

Windemere's eyes grew defiant, and he struggled against the magic to speak. At last, he managed to gasp. "I have not seen any of these parchments before, nor have I ever conspired to betray thee or Britannia." He closed his eyes. "I stood only for what I believed."

Blackthorn ignored the lies; he and Whitelock had surmised that others had worked with Windemere and Suturb. Now he would expose these others as traitors as well.

He reviewed one scroll, allowed it to drop from his fingers. Scrutinized the next one, and the next. When he had dropped all of them, he blinked, uncertain at what he had seen, then took another handful, again sifting through them with a single hand while his other held his sword against Windemere's neck. The parchments were the same. Not identical in content, but in tone, voice, handwriting. Another handful. 'Twas all the same. There were no others. Only one.

Each parchment that he now dropped took longer to fall, sounded louder when it hit the floor, until each struck a beat upon a monstrous drum. And with each stroke of the drum, the world around him dimmed. More scrolls. More maps. Louder and louder. Schedules. Plans. Darker and darker. Letter upon letter. Longer and longer.

Recognition came long before certainty, and that arrived with the signature. 'Twas as if it had waited to show itself when the drumbeats were at their loudest, the world at its darkest, time at its slowest.

One signature.

There were no others.

He did not feel his arm draw back, did not recall the stroke. He remembered only the thump of the Councilor's body as it collapsed upon the dais, the head left to dangle from Elistaria's hand.

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