Lord Torvall Garrund faces Lady Astora, mother to his granddaughter, Illaina.
Garrund said, “Illaina will never know. I came to rescue you, but I was too late.” He watched the woman suppress the pain that flickered across her face.
The man and the women faced each other across the space of a few feet: the woman, her hand bound tightly behind her back, kneeling on the stained stone floor of the cellar; the man, fingering a wicked looking dagger with a serrated edge, standing at ease in his fine woolen cloak.
She spoke, “Alive, we are equal. Now, when you have killed me, I will be become greater.” The woman dressed in rags that had once been an elegant dress returned her captor’s gaze without blinking.
The man sighed and nodded to the executioner who stepped forward from behind the captive and drew his blade swiftly across the prisoner’s throat. Astora’s eyes widened slightly as a fountain of her rich red blood sprayed from her severed arteries. The woman’s body pitched forward and convulsed briefly as the last of its blood spilled into a widening pool. It was said to be a painless death.
“Perhaps,” the man spoke to the cooling flesh. “But I have brought down the high and the powerful before, and none has ever received advantage from their passing.”
Far south along the once-peaceful Songris, steaming at full throttle and desperate, Captain Eberhard suddenly sank to his knees, his hands clutching his chest. The helmsman called out in alarm for someone to come help the captain.