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The court fell into silence; a complete hush, apart from the quiet sobs of certain courtesans.

“Dark is the storm which brings such news to me.”

The queen raised her head slowly and looked at the man before her. He still wore the dust of the road, and blood seeped through his bandages.

“Tell me, Storm Bringer, where were you when my son was killed? How came you to fail in your vow to protect him?”

The man bowed his head. “We were separated in the battle, m’lady. I lost sight of him for but a moment.”

“A moment too long,” she said sharply. “‘Tis often said in my court that you and my son were close as – nay closer than brothers. That you were as one body, where he was the rash, impetuous heart, and you the clear thinking head. Had you heard this said?”

He kept his head lowered. “Aye, m’lady, I have.”

“And what, then, did you think would happen were the heart and the head to be separated?”

He said nothing; he was given no chance to. At a small gesture from the queen, her headsman stepped forward and separated the messenger’s head from his body.

“My son was much beloved,” the queen said. “I would not have him step into the yonder without his head.”

Servants ran forward, scattering sawdust over the blood before it could spread and throwing a cloak across the body.

“Black is the night upon which my son is taken from me and those who love him well,” the queen said. She looked out across the court, her cold gaze seeking out those courtesans who had cried aloud at the news. “He will not pass alone. Put out the lights; and then put out all the lights.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Taking a little spin in Shakespeare’s shoes at the end there, but I hope it’s forgiveable!)