The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

The Light Shall Never Fade

The Light Shall Never Fade

The boy Blackthorn swallowed his pride, and even that subtle movement caused the point of his opponent's blade to push painfully upon the flesh of his throat. His own blade lay just a hand's length away from his knees. He could probably still reach for it . . .

The boy who had bested him, a woodsmen's son named Garrioth, pulled his wooden training sword away from Blackthorn's neck, and outstretched his hand. As required, he took Garrioth's hand so that his opponent might draw him up from his knees, but for a moment—just an instant, while his opponent was unprepared—he thought of throwing Garrioth to the ground, then snatching up his training sword to continue the fight. But what good would that do, he thought, since I am already dead. The contest was over, his opponent victorious. More importantly, how would violating the rules set a good example for his peers? If he played into trickery, would not they? And if they did, how could anyone trust each other? Was it not the purpose of the Guard to protect Britannians from those who could not be trusted?

So he allowed the boy to help him to his feet. They both took two steps back and bowed while their peers circled them and applauded. Their trainer, a gruff man of dark skin, nodded his approval. "Well fought, Garrioth. Thy skill is admirable and still reigns over thy peers, but do not grow lax. Young Blackthorn here is quick to learn." He turned to others, including Shaana. "Not one of thee has lost against him since he joined us, but I have noticed that each of thy victories against him has involved more work as the days go by. 'Tis only a matter of time, I suspect, before one of thee falls before him."

"I am certain Shaana already has," the boy next to her crowed, and the others laughed. Blackthorn did not quite understand the boy's jest, but he did join in the laughter that followed—when Shaana belted the kid in the stomach.

Their laughter halted when the gate to the field opened and Shaana's father appeared. They all stood at attention as the Captain of Yew's Guard marched toward them.

"Father?" Shaana said. It was not how she should have addressed him, for within the Guard, he was her captain first and foremost, but the expression he wore . . . The last time Blackthorn had seen it had been when the captain had directed the removal of Nyomae's body from his mother's tree.

"I have grievous news," he said. He turned to boy Blackthorn. "The court clerk, Dryden, has asked me to summon thee. Thy presence . . .


. . . has been requested from within the chamber of the Great Council," Judge Dryden noted with a rasp of irony, almost immediately after Lord Blackthorn had stepped through the gates of Castle Britannia. It had been nearly a week since the assault on Windemere's Keep, and with the exception of this morning, when he had ridden from Britain's docks to the castle, he had spent most of his time upon the sea, staring out at the waves from his frigate's cabin, thinking. It felt as if that was all he had done—think and contemplate—yet he was no nearer to understanding what he had to do than when he had first seen the traitorous signature on Windemere's documents.

"Has there been any word from Lord Malone or Sir Simon?" he asked the Judge, who followed him into the castle's hallways. The dimming light of the late afternoon fell away completely beneath the cavernous vaults.

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