The Fall of Lord Blackthorn

The Light Shall Never Fade

"Not since they renounced any involvement in the assault on Windemere's Keep," Dryden answered. "They also stated that they would no longer support the Black Company or the Britannian Guard with their own men. Several knights of the Order of the Silver Serpent have already left."

"Treason," Blackthorn murmured. Had they fallen under Windemere's spell as well? Probably. Pity he had not slain the man earlier. As for Windemere's cohort, that matter would soon be taken care of.

"Treason?" Dryden asked. "Not necessarily. Lord Malone and Sir Simon are under no legal obligation to support Britannia's military. That is, unless, the laws are to be changed."

"Draft the necessary documents, then, and thou wilt have my signature," Blackthorn replied. "The Great Council hath already created enough unrest and unruliness with their cowardice. I saw it in the eyes of the citizens who watched me ride through Britain this morning. They are apprehensive, enraged, and uncertain of what to do." There had been jeers, insults, a rock or two thrown his way. He did not blame them, for it was clear that their malice was simply misplaced. 'Twas the Great Council who had betrayed them, not he. Fortunately, others within the mob understood what had truly happened, and had set out to defend Blackthorn. At least one fight broke out between the two factions, large enough that the Black Company had had to quell it. "We must let Sir Simon and Lord Malone know that it is in Britannia's best interests to unite our forces and demonstrate that even without the Great Council, there can be order within our fair land."

"Art thou certain, my Lord?" Dryden asked. "'Tis not only Britain that is in discord, 'tis the other towns as well. The betrayal of the Great Council and the loss of Lord British have spread a panic."

Blackthorn did not answer until they reached the closed doors of the chamber of the Great Council. "It takes fear to create panic," he said, placing his hand upon the middle of the doors. "It takes greater fear to control it." Shadows danced over his fingertips. "And trust me, there are greater things to fear than what the Great Council has done."

With that, he pushed open the doors and . . .


. . . stepped into the main chamber of Yew's courthouse. His father was not there, but that did not concern the boy Blackthorn. The morning after Councilor Windemere had been delivered to the Royal Guard, his father had approached him. "Tell Dryden that he is in charge of affairs for the next few days. I need time to myself, time to reflect upon the events of the past few days. If thou shouldst need to find me during the day, I shall be beneath thy mother's tree, but I ask that thou dost only do so if thou dost truly need to see me, and only if thou dost come alone."

A strange request, the boy had thought, but not without reason. His father had sensed his trepidation "I promise thee that I will be home in the evenings," he assured, and he had fulfilled his promise, making certain that supper awaited the boy Blackthorn each day after training with the Guard.

Hence, the boy Blackthorn was not concerned when he did not see his father in the main chamber of the courthouse. What struck the first chords of fear in the boy was the solemn droop of Dryden's shoulders and his beleaguered frown. Not because the boy was worried about the clerk, but because he had never seen the clerk . . . sad . . . before. Indeed, come to think of it, he had never considered the clerk capable of such an emotion. To see it nowóthat frightened him.

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