_______Part _______Hasty_Judgments _______One_______

The sharp point of the thin rapier pierced his skin, drawing a thin line of blood to the skin's surface of the trainee knight. He did not flinch, he did not stir, he did not lose his momentum; physically, but his mind was long gone. The flashbacks of the picnic that day before plagued his concentration with images of her face; those dark eyes which soulfully stared at your inner being, and that dark curly hair waving hospitable greetings to the wind, as well as the audio sounds of her soothing voice distracted him from his mission. The silence of expression was abruptly broken with an exclamation from the master, but the ringing and clashing of the blades drowned it out; no matter, the apprentice was in his own little world anyway. Everything stopped when the weapon slipped through his fingers because of his unconsciousness, and the rapier crashed to the ground. Still keeping his thrusts and extravagant footwork to the tee, he pranced around unhindered and alone, for his teacher, who was as puzzled as he was dexterous, moved to the side and eyed his young student for this abnormal behavior. He came to a quick conclusion and yelled out vociferously for the student to wake up from his fantasy world.

"Thomas of Rosalyn, where is your mind? On what thoughts do plague you son? What is the matter my boy?"

Thomas looked up at the instructor, then down at his hand, and even further below to the floor where he noticed the golden rapier. He made a quick connection in his brain, and picked it up blushing with embarrassment. Here he was, a noble second to the prince with the privilege of training with the most notable battle skills the country of Aswan has ever had, and here he was, making the amateur mistake of dropping the weapon. To recover from this horrible fallacy he smiled and made humor of the situation.

"It isn't my mind that's gone sir, it's my heart."

The instructor laughed heartily and replied, "Say no more Thomas my lad. The young heart often strays from logic and reason, to fantasize about love and other matters of itself, and the ecstasy of it. Do not worry about it. Those feelings will fade soon enough, then you can tend to your duty instead of worrying about such folly."

Thomas smiled on the outside, but inside he was afraid of what the old man had said. He never wanted to leave these feelings, nor want the feelings to desert him. For the first time in his young life, he was perfectly happy and he would die before anything would stand in his way.
"Come on Thomas, let's quit for the day, you are improving steadily and maybe next week we will move on with the battle axes. Has your new chain mail been fetched from the blacksmith's?" the instructor asked Thomas.

"No sir, it hasn't, he claims that the weakness needs to be fixed before he can let me have it." Thomas answered.

"Oh fiddlesticks, it has been over three weeks, we might never move on to the real swords at this rate." The old man crossed his arms and said to Thomas in a harsh tone, "Why are you standing there idle? Get going. you are dismissed."

Thomas bowed his head, thanked his master for his time, and headed out the cottage's door.

The row of cottages in which the master was staying during his sojourn was a tidy line of fifteen along the edge of the farms. What was a noble, only second in rank to the prince doing in a humble cottage? Thomas was only training in the best way possible, with the military's finest general, who was retired in his three score and ten years. Sir Dwain the Devoted had almost as influence in the king's decision as the subsequent Prince Croix, who was the wholly trusted advisor of his father. Croix was on to becoming major general in the vast army stretching in the prosperous country of Aswan. That row of cottages encompassed all the military heroes and nobles who decided to live the rest of their days out of the limelight. Sir Dwain saw potential in Thomas of Rosalyn in his young age of eighteen. He had the scrutinizing and royal sapphire and gray eyes of his father, and the cordial smile of his mother; and he looked like a prince. His hair, a sandy blonde color, was bathed in sunlight as he walked along the path to his favorite place of solace, the keep of Lady Zelle.

The dirt path stretching beyond the eye's jurisdiction, led to a keep on the outside of the farms, to the castle where the two kingdoms of Aslew and Wanteel merged one generation ago. Thomas was singing a happy little tune as he approached the towering stone structure, so intimidating in his height, that not even the valiant Croix could avoid trembling at the sight of it. As he neared, a voice like a nightingale's swept the air, carried by the messenger wind, and brought upon him a somber note, for the singing although beautiful, was a morbid prayer to contrast the picturesque day. As he neared the castle, he found himself humming the melody, and eventually singing the words. He reached the drawbridge when the guard, a young looking man with a blonde beard, hair, and brown eyes stopped him and yelled at Thomas.

"Halt there! Who are you? What are your intentions? Identify yourself in the name of the Wenteels!" The guard inquired of Thomas.

"Bah! Thomas 'ere needs no introduction!" called a middle aged man down from the loft. "He is the most upstanding gentleman, err um boy, in the entire land! He is second to the prince and the best suitor yet for Lady Zelle. Thomas of Rosalyn does not need to be attacked, questioned, and harassed like a common criminal. Let 'em pass. let 'em pass." The guard pleaded with the new solider.

Thomas started to blush when the older guard said that he was a suitor for Zelle. He called up to him, "Thank you for your kindness sir, but I am not a suitor for Lady Zelle, I am only her friend."

The new solider looked at him, narrowed his eyes and said, "I'll let you through so-called Thomas of Rosalyn. But don't get in Croix's way or death will pay."

"I shall not sir, I shall not." Thomas nervously responded. He walked through the gate, to the entrance and up the stairs. He reflected upon the elder guards words. "Does she think I am a suitor? Is that what everyone thinks? I like her a lot. but she can have anyone she wants, so why would she pick me? Me over Croix, whom everyone knows since he is the dashing prince.whom everyone loves and falls to their knees all around him? No, she would not pick me, even with my father's death at hand and financial security. She would become royalty. Why do I feel like this when I know, when reason tells me that my love is unrequited? I must give it up, Croix worships her, and I have no chance with Zelle. How could I compete? I cannot so I must concede defeat. I do not even know how she feels, but I know that it would not be good. I fell in love so it can't be too difficult to get out." When he thought that last sentence, he realized he missed the room, reversed himself, and walked to the door, knocked, and went inside. The voice had stopped.

Thomas entered the small room to find Zelle sipping water during her break in her voice lesson. "Am I interrupting anything?"

The teacher responded, "Thomas how nice to see you. No, Zelle is on her break. I'll give you two privacy." She then left the room and shut the door.

"Hello, I thought I told you about my voice lessons." She smiled.

"You need them badly too, I had to cover my ears before I came in here." Thomas winked at her.

Zelle countered quickly, "Oh! Aren't you working with real weapons yet in your training, or are you still in air waving?" They both laughed at that remark and Thomas sat down on a neighboring chair.

"Yes, I'm onto the rapier now. Next time is the battle axe." Thomas said on a serious note. He crossed his arms baring his newly engraved injury.

Zelle gasped when she saw the thin red line, "Are you alright Thomas? That gash in your arm, here take my water." She handed him the cup and she ripped a scrap of cloth from her sleeve and he received it.

"No need to make such a fuss over little me, you ruined a perfectly good dress!"
"Don't worry about it at all! This old thing is bound for the trash heap." Honestly however, it was brand new and made of the finest silk.

"The scratch itself will heal, although I don't remember how I got it." He kept the cloth when he was done with it.

Silence followed the conversation for a good ten minutes. Thomas tapped his fingers on his knee, and lady Zelle practiced her scales, each not saying a word as she cleared her throat and Thomas sat there in wonderment of her beauty, grace, and the way she carried herself, confident but humble. They looked at each other repeatedly, when a knock came upon the door.

"Come in, its open." Zelle shouted. Lo and behold, but who came through the door.

"My dearest Zelle!" Croix burst forth from the wooden frame, his hefty build and muscular arms that were holding pretty flowers entered first, then it was his legs, steel stilts that lifted him up to six foot- two. His eyes followed and set his sights on Zelle and his endearing look towards her. Those crisp blue eyes with a hint of gray the greatest aim in all the land, (and not just the goal of all young lads in the area), pulled the arrow back, and hit their target with the utmost jealousy from Thomas.

A bit shocked, Zelle stammered, "Croix, how, what a pleasant surprise. How are."
"Me? No let us not discuss me darling, you are topic of everyone in town, and deserve it completely, for you are the brightest sun and the diamond in the rough of all the unpolished rocks that are the other jewels. Here these are for you!" Interrupted and cooed Croix, bestowing upon Zelle the brightest bouquet of fresh native purple flowers called Aurora's Bliss, in all the sycophantic manners in which one could esteem a woman.

Thomas, obviously unnerved and perturbed by Croix's presence and lexis, went on unnoticed until Croix wanted a seat, and beckoned for the 'scrawny little servant boy' to get up and fetch water because his 'princess was thirsty from her nightingale exercises'. Zelle blushed with embarrassment of Croix's actions and compliments, as well as with anger at Croix's treatment of someone dear to her. Needless to say, Thomas was incensed, and nonchalantly coughed 'Ahem' receiving Croix's observation to notice that he was not a household worker by any means.

"Oh I am so sorry Thomas of Rosalyn, I mistook you for a servant. Please accept my apology." Croix feigned remorse and quickly turned his back on Thomas not even waiting for his riposte.

In the exact same tone as his arch-nemesis, Thomas replied between his teeth, "Your request has been granted, Your Highness," and in a cordial and sincere tone to Zelle said, "I beg your pardon, but I must bid you adieu for I must be with my father at his last days."

Zelle nodded with acceptance, "Please, if you want me to go with you, or do anything for you, let me know in this arduous time." She stood up and grabbed Thomas's hand, and squeezed it.

"Oh don't cosset him my Princess," Croix told her. "Thomas is tough enough to handle the rapier, so he can handle anything." Croix laughed in his arrogance.

"Croix that will be enough of you degrading Thomas and myself in such a manner. It does not please me or impress me of all the accolades you pay me. You recompense me so much that I will have enough to fill the treasury of your tributes that will not buy me a carrot at the market. If you possess as much admiration as you decree, then respect those whom I revere as well." Zelle scolded him as Thomas, wishing to escape the mortification that was to entail, shut the door and ventured back to his hamlet of a home. Zelle continued, "Oh and by the way, I am NOT your princess yet, and I pity the woman who is blind enough to not see through your pompous vanity. I command you to leave. My voice is ruined with such sweet words to utter." She plopped down in her seat and turned her back to him, as he looked on dumbfounded. "I almost forgot, don't let the door hit you in the ass."

He stomped toward her and grabbed her shoulder. "I don't appreciate your harsh tongue Lady Zelle, I will forgive you this time because I always get what I want, and in this case this is you." He eerily put his hand on hers and sat down in the chair that was beside her, while resting his head on her shoulder. Zelle shuddered, and he kissed her neck once. "While you may resist me, you will never lose me, until that day that we die."

"When that time comes," Zelle said distantly, "I shall make sure I expire first."

"A such a thing you would not have durst." Croix uttered breaking away. "Good bye my dove, and I promise that I will have you, no matter what I will go through." He went out the door as Lady Zelle turned away to the mirror, grabbing the glass, seeing it was empty, called her instructor back, as well as her handmaiden. The voice trainer came at once.

"I do not feel well, and I wish to be given a reprieve from the rest of today's lessons." Zelle told the coach.

"Of course. Shall I summon the doctor?" She responded worrisomely.

Zelle replied with haste. "No, no, I just need to lie down."

The handmaiden came next. "What is it mistress?"

"I would like my hair brushed and my pitcher of water refilled Fiona."

Fiona responded, "Of course mistress, I will be right back with the water, and I will be in your chamber right after that."

"Thank you, Fiona." Zelle faintly said as she exited the practice room and laid down in her chamber.

Thomas was strolling along, contemplating Lady Zelle's reactions and words that he heard, when all of an sudden brawny arms pushed him on the path and he fell in the dirt and mud. When he cleared the muck from his eyes, the fist that was at the ends of the burly arms met Thomas's nose and back he fell into the sludge.

A raspy voice declared filled with hatred and resentment, "Don't you ever, ever talk to her ever again or I'll have you hanged boy." Lo' and behold, it was Croix.

Thomas was bleeding, but he did not stand down to the military leader with a four years age difference. "I would rather breathe my last breath speaking to her and dying at the hand of my adversary in disgrace and going to Hell, then dying with honor and chivalry in battle and encountering the everlasting Heavens."

"Be careful of what you wish for, because it might come true. Not even an angel would rescue you." Croix retorted.

"It might come true, but I'll die a happy man!" Thomas rejoined.

"You?" Croix scoffed. "A Man? Are you mad? You are still a boy of eighteen who is a weakling, and by Heaven as long as I live I will make sure you never see the inside of a battlement ever." Croix pledged.

"I am as sane as the King. Never pass a hasty judgment on my skills or stature, because even the student will one day beat the master." Thomas's wisdom shook him to the core.

"I am the Prince around here and I can pass judgment on whoever I damn well please." Croix responded. "I will leave your presence now and oh, I missed a spot." As Croix was about to push Thomas to the mud again, Thomas moved out of the way just in time for Croix to slip in his momentum and fall face down into the earth.

Croix stood up and walked away, not saying a word, while Thomas went in the opposite direction taking the long route home.

"Mistress, what is bothering you?" Fiona inquired of the pensive Zelle as she brushed her long hair.

"I don't understand why my the curl will not just come out of my hair, it looks foreign, and not like the other girls' in the country." Zelle responded.

"What a silly answer mistress, I know that is not the problem." Fiona chuckled.

"It's true, how could I win him when I feel so different from all the others." Zelle sighed.

"Oh there is a he involved. Isn't it good to be distinctive so he would notice you from all the others?" Fiona inquired.

"Still, I don't think he considers me more then a friend, and when I think he does, he gets scared off, and does something in which instinct tells me that he doesn't like me. I just feel so. confused."

"Who can understand men? They always say something and mean something else. It's deplorable."

"Where did you get this extensive vocabulary Fiona?" Zelle asked.

"Mistress, I am going to let you in on a secret. There is a prophet on the outside of town. She teaches me and I am training to release my inner forces and strength and become a soothsayer. No doubt she will answer your questions."

Delighted by the idea, Zelle impatiently commanded Fiona to take her to the augur at once, and across the fields, they went to the cottage. Fiona entered first, and told Zelle to take off her shoes out of respect. Zelle obeyed, and approached the mysterious woman cautiously. The woman's back was turned, and she was wearing a gray faded hooded robe.

"I.I heard you were a type of oracle. May I ask you some questions?" Zelle stammered.

"Come, come my child, have a seat on the rug, and you may ask me whatever you wish." The woman did not turn around, but stayed in her original position, lighting candles in front of an altar, giving to some deity a buffet of vegetables and incense.

Zelle immediately sat down on the rug as Fiona stood by the doorway. She started with her first question. "What is to become of me?"

With her eyes closed, the woman started to hum a chant and waving her arms to the sky. She spun around as lightening flashed and her face was revealed. It was a young face with long blonde hair, erratic green eyes, and in her hands were thick incense sticks, and the offering on the table had vanished. The woman sat down before Zelle, and laid out the sticks on a silk purple cloth.

"I foresaw you coming Lady Zelle, and started to make the offering to my god for the guidance and ability to answer your one and only question. I shall answer it through the sticks, and translate your fortune for you." Zelle was silent, as the visionary sprinkled powder over the array of incense. There were five bundles, and the third one had the most powder on it, with the fifth the least.

"Lady, you will become great in reputation, and great in every aspect of public life. However you will be torn apart from the inside out, and die without the one you love, but you will survive beyond death. Because of you, three destinies are greatly altered, and it is better that you not have been born. The forces inside you are Chaos, and Eternal Love, which will ultimately lead to insanity to those you touch, because of the imbalance of those forces, and you will only be happy through your legacy." The visionary looked up into her teary eyes. "I am sorry Lady Zelle, but that is what will you become."

Zelle stared at the oracle in great distress. She started to cry, and Fiona ran to her and comforted her in vain. Zelle was destroyed, and lashed out at anger at the psychic.

"How dare you call that rubbish my fortune? Privileged am I to have the knowledge that sticks cannot make your destiny or your life already drawn out? Fiona!" Lady Zelle turned toward her confidant, "Are you mad to listen to this fraud?"

"I apologize Lady Zelle, I have never heard such bad news. I wish I'd never brought you here."

The prophet's eyes turned into a blazing inferno. She stared into Zelle's eyes with both fury and compassion. "Not everyone can be lucky or successful in all their lives. I know you can overcome the prophecy. It is in your blood to revolt. Your aura tells me that you will not settle for what is given. I wish you luck, Lady Zelle. Come weekend you will be married, and I promise you that things will get better. There is always hope. No matter what never lose hope."

Zelle got up and ran out of the cottage. Fiona chased her from there to her castle. The seer stood up, went to the door, and called out to them. "Hope! Never lose hope!" The sunset emerged from the thunderclouds, and evening was there at last.

Thomas's father departed from this wondrous earth the next day, so Thomas became heir to a vast estate. To add insult to injury, and rub the salt into the wound as far as it would go, Croix asked Zelle's father his opinion about a union between him and Zelle. Her father encouraged the wedlock; Croix agreed the father set the wedding date for Saturday. However, before Saturday, in three days, collateral on the wedding had to be accomplished. Croix could not, would not, accept a breach. There was only one thing standing in his way.

Thomas ran along the dirt road to Sir Dwain's cabin for his daily lessons, over a half an hour late. He reached the door, and a red spot on the wooden entrance caught his eye. He opened the panel to discover a bloodbath. There was a dismembered body lying on the bed, and blood was literally everywhere. He walked across the room to look for a weapon, and bloodied his hands on Dwain's nightstand. None could be found. Thomas searched for any clue on who could have done this horrid deed. He walked up to the remains of the body solemn, and covered them with the bed sheet, not noticing the difference on the head; in hair color, shape of the face, and the countenance it wore, nor the faces dodging to be seen at the window. He bloodied his clothes concealing the body, and ran out of the house to a nearby cabin to tell them what had happened. As soon as Thomas walked out of Dwain's cabin, Prince Croix's soldiers were waiting for him.

"Thomas of Rosalyn, you are caught red-handed in the punishable by death crime of cold-blooded murder in the death of Sir Dwain the Devoted. I hereby arrest you and imprison you in the dungeon pending a sentencing hearing." A stone-faced solider told Thomas.

"I'm innocent! I swear! I went to my lessons late because I was at my father's grave putting yellow roses on it. This is just a hasty judgment." Thomas in desperation tried to persuade them.

"We saw you put the cover over his face, and we are eye-witnesses. We know that you are guilty. Come with us without resistance, or we will be forced to kill you." Another solider told him.

"Either way I will die, whether or not I try." Thomas then submitted to the law and was taken to the castle dungeon. "I must clear my good name."

Croix was standing by the highest glass window in the castle, which was the room of the library. He had his back to the door, and someone walked in. The new guard at Zelle's palace, walked up to Croix at the window. They started to speak.

"Is it finished?" Croix asked the guard.

"Yes, everything is perfect your highness." The guard responded.

"The old guard at the keep lifeless?"

"Yes."

"How many days until Saturday?"

"Two your highness."

"Wonderful, the final sentencing will be tomorrow. He will spend this night in prison."

"His last your highness?"

"His last."

"Anything else?"

"Keep your eye on Zelle to make sure she doesn't do anything drastic."

"Yes your highness, I will protect her with my life."

"Who is guarding her now?"

"May I be dismissed?"

"Go now."

The solider departed and left Croix standing alone by the window. The threat is decimated, and I am home free, almost. Yet, I have everything of his, his lass, his home, and his reputation, everything except his life. Croix thought to himself. My revenge is almost complete. He will be sorry he ever was born. The only other way for me to get back at him is to let him live. THAT'S IT! Croix decided on a whim to change the execution of his plans. Let the bastard live, live away from Zelle, disgraced from his own community who loved him, away from our father's favoritism towards him. I must reveal the truth so he can endure through life as I have. As a nobody in father's eyes! Only then shall my revenge be complete. Deep in thought, Croix walked down the many flights of stairs to go to supper, and to prepare the way for Zelle's homecoming feast.

Zelle was looking at herself in the mirror with the most tortured gaze on her face. She was between tears, and Fiona saddened by her friend's and mistress's situation could not cheer her up. Her instructions from Zelle was to "make her as ugly as possible" for the engagement announcement. Fiona told her that it was no use; fate had stepped in, and that she was too pretty for a gloomy countenance. Fiona was brushing Zelle's hair again, and she pulled the right strings to get her to cheer up. "Thomas is going to be there because he is a noble." Zelle's frown metamorphosis improved Fiona's spirits, as well as her mistress's and Fiona repeated the soothsayer's words as Zelle left for the palace. "Never give up hope."

Thomas was contemplating the circumstances and was heavily unsettled by them. He paced and paced across the cell knowing the end was near. He occasionally glanced at one of the three iron barred windows to watch the sunset and the moon come up. Tired, he sat down on the icy stone floor, and stared at the darkness.

"You know you are between a rock and a hard place right now Thomas." A voice boomed from the obscurity of the lack of light.

Thomas was stunned when the voice spoke to him and he stood up. "Who's there?"

"Don't you know my voice Thomas of Rosalyn? After all the months we have been training, or are you always dreaming and ignoring my presence?"

"Dwain? But I thought you.?"

"Were dead? No, not dead, imprisoned and sworn to silence, as well as chained to the wall. You and I will meet the same fate I'm afraid, and you before your time."

"They won't kill you in public, it would be too risky for them."

"No, they are going to say that I am a thief, and hang me for stealing bread."

"How do you know that?"

"I overhear many things, and another thing I heard is Zelle is going to a feast here to announce her engagement."

"Engagement! No, she's marrying Prince Croix?" Shocked and surprised, he turned around and beat the wall with his fist. "This cannot be happening to me." He leaned against the wall in disconcerted peace for hours on end.

Zelle got to the banquet, and was escorted by Prince Croix up the steps into the dancing and dining hall. A grand party was going on, and Zelle anxiously looked for Thomas. She didn't see him anywhere. Zelle's gloominess bothered Croix immensely.

"Is anything bothering you my dear?" Croix concernedly asked Zelle.

"I don't see Thomas anywhere and I wanted to dance with him."
Croix angrily spoke to Zelle through his teeth, "Don't mention him ever in my presence again. You will learn to love me, or I will make you long to learn to love me."

Zelle broke apart from his grasp and responded, "Why do you love me? You don't act as if you love me, you just say the words! I want to know why!"

"I love you because you are unique, and you interest me in your iciness and your gorgeous looks." Croix cooed.

"That is not the way to love." Zelle argued.

Croix grabbed her arm tightly, and put her back in his clutch, "Why this animosity?"

"You deprive me of my true heart and fill it with evil. I abhor you."

"Well, you will act like you love me. I have a reputation to keep."

"Damn your reputation, I want my life back!" Zelle exclaimed.

"No one always gets what they want princess so you will have to adjust."

Linked arm and arm, they entered the dining hall as the entire nobility stood up for them, and Croix motioned Lady Zelle to sit down. She obeyed. The first thing that she noticed was a place setting for Thomas of Rosalyn, and a vacant seat.

"Excuse me Prince Croix but there is urgent business to attend to." Zelle's guard told Croix and everyone else in the hall.

"Can it wait until tomorrow?" Croix said annoyed.

"No your highness, it concerns Thomas of Rosalyn."

Voices fell silent and all eyes were fixed on the unoccupied place setting.

"Well what is it?" Croix commanded.

"Our beloved Thomas of Rosalyn was caught red handed in the murder of Sir Dwain the Devoted."

Everyone gasped at the news, and Zelle got up and ran out of the room because she was so upset. She ran down the corridors, and downward stairs, wandering aimlessly and sobbing violently. She miraculously encountered the prison dungeon and entered to get some answers. She came up upon Thomas leaning against the wall, and Thomas heard her crying. She went to the bars, and he ran up to them as well, and they embraced for a brief moment with bars between them.

"Why Thomas, why did you do it? Why did you kill Dwain?" They were still hugging when she asked the question.

"I didn't do it, I was framed, and am innocent. Completely innocent." Thomas explained. "I found a body in Dwain's cabin, covered it up with a sheet, and got blood on my hands and clothing. It was like the soldiers were waiting for me."

Zelle writhed from his grip and backed away. "I don't know what to believe, the solider said."

"Whose side are you on now? Your beloved Croix or mine. I know you two are getting married in two days, and I cannot bear the thought of that. I want to be hanged rather then see you two make it official." Thomas resentfully said.

"My beloved Croix? I hate him with a passion! I want to be killed so I won't go through with it. I want to. I want to.." Instead of yelling at him, she started to cry. "I want to die to be true to myself. because I love you. I couldn't bear another day without you in my life. I have loved you since the day I met you, and, Fate in her uncompassionate ways will not allow me to have you. I need you, you are in my soul Thomas, and I will love no other." She broke down to her knees at the brink of the cell bars while Thomas stood in front, silent.

Softly and gently, he stooped down and put his hand on her shoulder. "Zelle. I love you with an unending ardor. Everything that you do enchants me and I couldn't get myself to tell you. I thought you wouldn't love me when you could have your pick of anyone in the entire world. I didn't think you loved me in this manner, I didn't realize how much I loved you until they chained me, and all I thought about, worried about, was.you." He helped her off the ground and they embraced again, with Thomas kissing her on her lips multiple times.

Dwain emerged from the darkness with whelps on his arms and legs. "I'm glad that this will be over with soon."

Zelle was too astonished to say a word. Thomas cleared up the confusion. "As I said I was framed, probably by Croix and his cronies so I wouldn't break up the impending marriage."

"I want to know why Croix hates you so much." Zelle responded.

Slow drawn out applause was heard from the stairwell, and someone entered the room infuriated and vengeful.

"Well, well, dinner and a show and I was wondering when I would make my grand entrance. I can't handle the drama when I'm not the star." he said as he approached.

"Croix!" Thomas exclaimed.

"I am glad I overheard this conversation because I can answer everyone's questions. You want to know why I hate him?" Croix addressed Zelle. "Jealousy is the simplest answer. He is my brother, my full blood brother, I got the military praise, and he always took the character prize from me. My dad loved him, and yet he treated me like a servant because I was the younger one."

Thomas was shocked to the soul. Me? Croix's older brother? The possibility was utter nonsense. But what about my father and why did the King give me away if its true?

"Your foster father Thomas," Croix continued, "was a childless nobleman in need of an heir, and what made our father give you to him was a gambling debt, and he put his first born son on the line in dice. Now how does it feel to be degraded just like me! Everything I have done, the framing, the marriage, living, is revenge for our father who didn't love me, treated me horribly, and beat me to pulp! You? Why did I pick you? You got out of the hell, you are the heir, and you are standing in my way of being truly happy! As long as you are living I will be uneasy!"

"How do you know this Croix? How?" Thomas curiously inquired.

"Father told me on my eighteenth birthday two months ago! You are not eighteen of course, you are twenty-two. I was ready to know the truth about you! I asked him why did he treat you better then me. He said because he felt guilty and told me the story I just told you."

Everyone was speechless. Croix turned around and dragged Zelle out of the dungeon. She kicked and punched, but she was no match for the brawny man. Finally using her small height to an advantage slipped out from under his grip and ran to Thomas kissing him one last time. Croix grabbed her and slapped her, and led her out like a sheep to the stairway while the entire time she was calling out "Have hope Thomas! Always have hope! I love you always!" in that sequence until she was hoarse going up the winding staircase.

The sun was completely gone, and left alone with the revelation and his mind, although in the company of Dwain, he was completely isolated. He paced and paced again, looking at the moon uttering his thoughts aloud.

"The old day is lost, and the new day is found, the aged man and the youngéd man share the same fate. Oh Zelle, I wish I was with you always and when I die you will be in my heart. Let me be in yours! Don't ever forget me." His voice trailed off as the scaffold and gallows were being set up in the courtyard, with two nooses being hung on the pole. The atmosphere of the place was murderous. Anyone could tell that it longed for fresh blood, and that blood shall be had.