Sir Markham’s heavy footfalls echoed through the castle hall. He rounded a corner and saw one of the castle’s chamber maids coming in the opposite direction, carrying a bundle of clothes clutched tightly to her chest. Her soft slippers made a shuffling sound as she walked, her gaze focused on the floor. Raising her head, she gave Thomas a tight smile. Her eyes and nose were red, dark circles sat under her eyes. She looked exhausted. Since the Queen’s death there was an almost palpable feeling of sadness in the castle. Like an airy mist, it drifted through the grounds, coiling around the hearts of those that lived and worked there. He gave her a brief nod and a sympathetic smile and continued down the corridor. Making a sharp left, he reached a great oaken door and gave it a sharp knock. A muffled voice from within commanded him to enter. Closing the door behind him, Thomas stood at attention. “Lord Brenwall, I came to remind you that the funeral for the Queen is this evening.” Gerard stepped away from a bookcase in the back of the room and moved toward his desk, his face a blank mask. Of all the people in the castle, he seemed to be holding up the best. Thomas knew how much his Commander cared for and admired the Queen and wondered how much of his true feelings were being held back. “I won’t be going, Sir Markham,” he said quietly, taking a seat. “My affairs here at the castle keep me occupied. Every moment here is a struggle since the Queen’s death. Our hold on the situation must be maintained. I can’t possibly leave.” He sighed, “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to attend, either.” “Sir, I…” Markham began, but snapped his mouth shut. “I understand, sir. I’m sure Sherry will have everything in hand.” He looked down at the floor. “Any specific orders, then?” “Yes,” Lord Brenwall murmured as he pulled a blank piece of parchment from a pile and began scribbling orders. “Two things…the first, I want you to pull your men from their work against the Bane and have them begin searching for the Queen’s missing sword. No direction action, eyes and ears only. Second, take this,” he sprinkled sand on the note and rolled it shut with a snap. He pulled sealing wax from a desk drawer and melted some on the paper, pushing his ring of office into the puddle. “Put it somewhere safe. Do not open it under any circumstances, until the time is right. You will know when. No questions. Is that clear?” Thomas raised an eyebrow, “yes, sir.” He tucked the orders in his belt. “Do you need anything else, sir? Can I have someone bring you some food? Something to drink? You’ve been sealed away in here since you moved in after the Queen-“ “Have the cook send something up,” Gerard interrupted. He stood and walked over to a window. “That will be all, Sir Markham,” he said, turning his gaze to a garden outside. Behind him, the door closed softly. Markham had only made it a few steps when he heard a great crash coming from Lord Brenwall’s office. Rushing back, sword half-drawn, he found the door locked. He was about to break it down when he heard another sound. Tilting his ear toward the door, he could hear a man sobbing. With a great sigh, his shoulders slumped. He let his sword drop back into its scabbard. Turning, he made his way toward the kitchens, leaving his Commander alone with his grief.