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The Judge of St. Kinnian by Jonathan Llewellyn
SUMMARY: Submission for June Flash-Fiction Contest... "Two sides to every story."
The judge of St. Kinnian pulled his heavy black robe tightly around his body, desperate for even a momentary relief from the cold. The little carriage was drafty, and entirely unfit for winter traveling. The wind, which hissed unseen outside the roughly constructed box, seemed to move with ease between the wall boards, whistling as it went.
"Are you cold master?" The young clerk asked. He was sitting on the bench opposite of the judge, and the tip of his long nose was chilled to a blood red.
"Of course I'm cold," The judge said sternly.
The clerk nodded, and returned to the weary silence that he'd so needlessly disrupted. As if to voice its disapproval, the carriage bounced suddenly, kicked high by a snow covered rock that had found itself under the wheels. Both men sprawled their arms to keep themselves on the hard wooden boards that served as their seats, while the few pieces of luggage they'd brought flung about loosely.
They had been traveling for eight days, and on the fifth a winter storm had overtaken them, bringing a new height to the misery of the coffin like carriage. The old road, that had already been unfit for anything but foot travel, became a slippery, snow covered line that shook and jarred the body relentlessly. The constant howl of the wind, and the miserable cold only added to their discomfort.
Their destination was the estate of Lord Hildebrand, a very obscure man if there ever was one. He lived in an old castle situated on a wind burnt cliff by the sea. It was a place very far away from the prestige and intrigue of the King's court... and as the judge had come to believe, it was a place to be put out to pasture.
"To every story, there are but two sides," had been the old judge's fondest saying, and the words had been a thorn in the side of many a wealthy lord. Righteousness and honesty were rare traits indeed, but now they were getting the best of him. He'd ruled against one who was too powerful, and now he was being sent away.
Suddenly, the muffled roar of the coachmen pierced through the wall boards and the carriage same to a sudden halt. The wind howled continuously, and the carriage jiggled on its old spring suspension.
"I hope we've not cracked another wheel," the clerk said, his face the epitome of worry.
But more voices, those of numerous men, could be heard through the thin boards of the carriage. Jeering voices, laughing voices... And the enclosed box that they'd spent the last week in, which had shielded them from the roughest of the elements, now shielded them from seeing what was occurring just a few paces away. An argument broke out, and the familiar voice of the driver exchanged wind muffled words with the others. Seconds passed, and then a hoarse shout cut through the chorus, and the cart rocked as the weight of the driver was suddenly removed.
"Oh my," the clerk said.
The judge sat quietly and listened, there was a struggle going on outside. He heard a few fumbling grunts, and then eerie silence, whatever had been done was done.